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      Republicans on the Political Cliff

      House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 30, 2012 (Photo: Alex Wong)

      President Obama and the Democrats have the political advantage as the crisis of the fiscal cliff approaches. It is the Republicans who are edging towards a political cliff if they appear to be impossibly recalcitrant in the public mind.

      Obama does not have a voter mandate to drive the government over the cliff, as some like Paul Krugman and Robert Borosage suggest (they say it will not be so bad, just deepen a slight recession). But the president can achieve certain key goals:

      • By the end of December, Obama can simply let the tax credits for the rich – incomes of $250,000 and up – simply expire, then sign a bill within days reinstating tax breaks for Americans under the Top Two Percent category. Would the Republicans vote no on bill to cut those taxes? Not likely. Already a few Republicans are looking for a way out, by passing current legislation to preserve tax breaks for the "98 percent", in effect allowing taxes to rise on the ultra-rich.
      • Obama and Democrats have more time - perhaps through February - to protect Medicare and Social Security. He has agreed to $400 billion in Medicare “savings” to be worked out in the coming year, with “no guarantees” according to the New York Times. (November 30, 2012)

      The political battle will continue through the 2014 elections. It is important to remember that the 2014 mid-terms, like those which carried the Tea Party to victory in 2010, will feature a lower, and probably more conservative, electorate than the tide which carried Obama and Democrats to victory last month. Whatever Obama and the Democrats wrest from the Republicans in the next two months will have to be defensible in two years.

      What are the Democrats chances of dividing the Republicans and winning any Republican votes in the current round?  I asked my colleague Peter Dreier from Occidental College for his following analysis. 

      Republicans on the Political Cliff

      By Peter Dreier

      Republicans will likely have a 234-201 majority in the House in January. So Obama needs only 17 Republicans to switch to get anything passed. Obviously it won’t be the same 17 Republicans on each issue. And of course he has to hold onto all 234 Dems – including the blue dogs – to get this done. Not simple.

      So my question is: Are the unions, community organizing networks, and other progressive groups thinking about this? Do they have a “hit list” of House Republicans who are most vulnerable to pressured by grassroots activists to vote for raising the minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, foreclosure reform, stronger environmental protections, etc? Who is thinking about this? I assume the White House and Pelosi have their hit lists of persuadable House Republicans on different issues. Are the unions and other liberal/progressive groups developing a strategy around this?

      I did a quick scan of the House election outcomes, relying on this New York Times chart.

      Thirteen Republicans won their House seats with only 52% or less of the vote. Quite a few others squeaked in with 53% or less. Obviously not all of them can be moved to vote with the Dems. One of them is Michele Bachmann, for example. But some of them – both veterans and newly-elected Republicans – must be concerned about re election in two years.

      And there are other House Republicans – who won by bigger margins-- who have somewhat moderate voting records. The National Journal ranks all House members on a liberal-conservative score. There are a number of House Republicans with who have somewhat moderate voting records (although some of them, like Mary Bono Mack, lost re-election bids and others, like Ron Paul, are just quirky – although Paul retired). 

      Here’s my calculation of House Republicans and Democrats who won with 52% or less of the vote*:

      Republican Winners

      1. Colorado 6 – Coffman
      2. Florida 10 - Webster
      3. Kentucky 6 – Barr
      4. Indiana 2 – Walorski
      5. Illinois 13 - Davis
      6. Michigan 1 – Benishek
      7. Michigan 11 – Bentivolio
      8. Minnesota 6 – Bachmann
      9. Nebraska 2 - Terry
      10. Nevada 3 – Heck
      11. New York 23 - Reed
      12. New York 27 – Collins
      13. Pennsylvania 12 - Rothfus

      Democratic Winners

      1. Arizona 1 – Kirkpatrick
      2. Arizona 2 - Barber
      3. Arizona 9 – Simena
      4. California 7 – Bera
      5. California 26 – Brownley
      6. California 36 - Ruiz
      7. California 52 – Peters
      8. Connecticut 5 - Esty
      9. Florida 18 - Murphy
      10. Illinois 10 – Schneider
      11. Illinois 12 - Enyart
      12. Massachusetts 6 - Tierney
      13. Nevada 7 – Horsford
      14. New Hampshire 1 – Shea-Porter
      15. New Hampshire 2 – Kuster
      16. New York 18 - Maloney
      17. New York 21 – Owens
      18. New York 24 - Maffei
      19. N.C. 7 – McIntyre
      20. Texas 23 - Gallego
      21. Utah 4 - Matheson

      * In some races, candidates with 52% or less of the vote still won by more than a 4% margin because of third party candidates.

      Here’s the National Journal’s list of the most “centrist” House members – the most “liberal” House Republicans (in red), and most “conservative” House Democrats, based on voting records in 2011. The most “liberal” are at the bottom:

      Michael Grimm, R-NY: 49.8, 50.2 (At the center of the House) [Won in 2012 with 52.8%]

      Pat Meehan, R-PA: 50.0, 50.0 (At the center of the House) [Won in 2012 with 59.5%]

      Jeff Fortenberry, R-NB: 50.2, 49.8 (At the center of the House) [Won in 2012 with 68.5%]

      Chris Gibson, R-NY: 51.2, 48.8 (Won in 2012 with 53.5%]

      Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA: 52.3, 47.7 [Won in 2012 with 56.6%]

      Robert Dold, R-IL: 52.7, 47.3 [Lost in 2012 with 49.5%]

      Richard Hanna, R-NY: 52.8, 47.2 [Won in 2012 with 60.9%]

      Charlie Bass, R-NH: 53.2, 46.8 [Lost in 2012 with 45.1%]

      Dan Boren, D-OK: 53.7, 46.3 (Most conservative Democrat)

      Chris Smith, R-NJ: 53.8, 46.2 [Won in 2012 with 68.0%]

      Tim Johnson, R-IL: 54.0, 46.0 [Retired in 2012. Rodney Davis, Republican, won with 46.6%]

      Justin Amash, R-MI: 54.2, 45.8 [Won in 2012 with 52.7%]

      Mike Ross, D-AR.: 54.2, 45.8

      Ron Paul, R-TX: 54.3, 45.7 [Retired in 2012. Randy Weber, Republican, won with 53.5%]

      Steven LaTourette, R-OH: 54.5, 45.5 [Retired in 2012. David Joyce, Republican, won with 54.3%]

      Jim Matheson, D-UT: 54.5, 45.5

      Jason Altmire, D-PA: 55.8, 44.2

      Mike McIntyre, D-NC: 56.2, 43.8

      Joe Donnelly, D-IN: 57.2, 42.8

      Tim Holden, D-PA: 57.2, 42.8

      John Barrow, D-GA: 57.5, 42.5

      Collin Peterson, D-MN: 57.5, 42.5

      Henry Cuellar, D-TX: 57.7, 42.3

      Ben Chandler, D-KY: 57.8, 42.2

      Jim Cooper, D-TN: 58.3, 41.7

      Walter Jones, R-NC: 58.5, 41.5 (Most liberal Republican) [Won in 2012 with 63.2%]

      Jim Costa, D-CA: 58.8, 41.2

      Larry Kissell, D-NC: 59.2, 40.8

      Heath Shuler, D-NC: 59.2, 40.8

      Dennis Cardoza, D-CA: 59.5, 40.5

      Nick Rahall, D-WV: 59.5, 40.5

      Jerry Costello, D-IL: 59.7, 40.3

      Daniel Lipinski, D-IL: 59.8, 40.2

      Gene Green, D-TX: 60.0, 40.0

      Bill Owens, D-NY: 60.2, 39.8

      Sanford Bishop, D-GA: 60.5, 39.5

      Ron Kind, D-WI: 61.2, 38.8

      Leonard Boswell, D-IA: 61.8, 38.2

      Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD: 63.8, 36.2

      Terri Sewell, D-AL: 64.0, 36.0

      Silvestre Reyes, D-TX: 64.2, 35.8

      Gary Peters, D-MI: 64.3, 35.7

      Tim Walz, D-MN: 64.3, 35.7

      Shelley Berkley, D-NV: 64.7, 35.3

      Kurt Schrader, D-OR: 64.7, 35.3

      John Dingell, D-MI: 64.8, 35.2

      Joe Baca, D-CA: 65.0, 35.0

      John Carney, D-DL: 65.0, 35.0

      Peter Dreier is the Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

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