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Electoral College: Despite protests, Southern electors stick with Trump

Trump carried 165 of the region’s 180 votes; two ‘faithless’ electors in Texas vote for Kasich, Ron Paul

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

southern states sm(CFP) — Members of the Electoral College have met at 14 Southern statehouses and, as expected, gave the overwhelming majority of the region’s electoral votes to President-elect Donald Trump, ignoring calls by anti-Trump protestors to stop his elevation to the nation’s highest office.

Candidate Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Trump carried 165 of the South’s 180 electoral votes in the December 19 vote. Hillary Clinton won the 13 electoral votes from Virginia, which was the only Southern state she carried.

The only place where Republican electors broke ranks was in Texas, where the defections of two Republican electors did not stop Trump from securing the 270 votes he needed to win the White House.

Chris Suprun, a Dallas paramedic who had previously announced he would not vote for Trump, cast his ballot for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Elector Bill Greene, who represented the 34th District, which takes in the Gulf Coast between Brownsville and Corpus Christi, voted for former Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

Afterward, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted his support for a bill that would preclude so-called “faithless” electors by requiring them to vote for the candidate who carried the state on election day, in this case, Trump.

“This charade is over.,” Abbot said. “A bill is already filed to make these commitments binding. I look forward to signing it & ending this circus.

Twenty-nine states have laws binding electors to the popular vote winner in their states, including the Southern states of Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Currently in Texas, state law doesn’t bind electors, although the Texas GOP required them to take an oath pledging to vote for the popular vote winner.

The Electoral College vote is usually a formality to which scant public attention is paid. However, Trump’s surprise win on November 8, coupled with his loss to Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes in the popular vote, galvanized anti-Trump protests at state capitols around the country.

Small groups of protestors gathered in Tallahassee, Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh, Austin, Oklahoma City and Montgomery.

In Austin, shouts from protestors were audible inside the State House chamber where electors met, according to local media reports.

In Little Rock, anti-Trump activists took many of the seats in the old Supreme Court chamber in the State Capitol, where the vote took place. According to local media reports, one protestor was removed, although the electors also chatted amiably with the demonstrators before the vote took place.

Analysis: Election results show Democrats are still a long way from being competitive in the South

Clinton performed worse in the South than Barack Obama in 2012

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Prior to the November 8 election, Democrats were publicly hopeful that they might finally be turning back Republican hegemony in the South, to the degree that pro-Hillary Clinton ads were running not only in the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina but also in reliably Republican Georgia and Texas.

Election results show that thinking was not just wishful, it was magical.CFP Facebook Mugshot

In fact, Clinton did comparatively worse in the South than Barack Obama did four years ago (which, oddly, seems to undercut the notion that the South’s resistance to Obama was based on his race.) A look at regional and state-by-state figures in the presidential race shows just how grim election night was for Southerners with a D attached to their name.

Donald Trump carried 53.3 percent of the vote and 13 out of 14 Southern states. That performance was not as good as Mitt Romney’s in 2012, when he came in with 54.4 percent (although Romney only carried 12 states.) However, the performance gap between Trump and Clinton was actually larger than the gap between Romney and Obama because Clinton’s underperformance was even worse.

She took just 42.5 percent of the Southern vote; Obama won 44.3 percent. Some of that was due to a larger third-party vote which, at 4.2 percent, was about 3 points more than it was in 2012. However, the gap between the Republican and Democratic share of the vote went up everywhere except Texas and Georgia and the lone Southern state Clinton carried, Virginia.

A look at raw vote totals shows the degree to which Clinton hemorrhaged Obama supporters.

In Mississippi, Clinton’s raw vote total was nearly 101,000 less than Obama’s in 2012, a huge shift in a state where less than 1.2 million votes were cast. Given that African-Americans play an outsized role in the state’s Democratic base, Clinton’s numbers are a clear sign that black voters did not turn out for her as they did for Obama.

But if Mississippi was bad for Clinton, Appalachia was even worse — down 51,000 votes in Kentucky, 92,000 in Tennessee, and 52,000 votes in West Virginia, where Trump’s percentage of the vote soared 15 points above Romney’s number. Those three states together have 270 counties; she carried exactly five.

In Arkansas, where Clinton was first lady and her husband governor for 10 years, she lost 16,000 votes and managed just 33.6 percent of the vote, 3.3 points lower than Obama’s vote in 2012. At the same time, Trump’s vote went up 34,000 over Romney’s, a net difference of nearly 50,000 votes.

Even in Virginia, which Clinton won, her vote total was 11,000 less than what Obama put up in 2016. She won because Virginia Trump’s vote total came in less than Romney’s by about 59,000 votes.

Meanwhile, as Clinton’s vote was fading, Trump’s was surging, beating 2012 GOP totals in every state except Virginia and Mississippi.

In Florida, where a growing Latino population was supposed to lead Clinton to victory, Trump added 442,000 votes to Romney’s tally, while Clinton added just 245,000 to Obama’s. In North Carolina, he added 69,000; she lost 16,000 in a battleground state she visited repeatedly.

In total across the South, Trump added more than 1 million votes to Romney’s haul; Clinton managed to add 448,000 by offsetting her losses in 11 states with gains in Texas, Florida and Georgia.

This led to some remarkable net vote changes between the two parties — 128,000 in Alabama, 166,000 in Kentucky, 150,000 in Tennessee and 118,000 in West Virginia.

The only glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel for Democrats was their improved performance in both Georgia and Texas.

In the presidential race, Democrats closed the gap with Republicans from 8 to 5 points in Georgia and 16 points to 9 points in Texas. Clinton also carried two big suburban counties in Atlanta, Cobb and Gwinnett, that had not gone Democratic in 40 years, along with Fort Bend County in suburban Houston, normally a no-man’s-land for a Democrat.

So perhaps Democratic wistfulness for those two states may not have been entirely misplaced, although that’s cold comfort when Trump carried Florida and North Carolina on his way to the White House.

And if the presidential results were grim, the U.S. Senate races were just as bad. Republicans  went eight-for-eight, with a race in Louisiana heading for a December 10 runoff in which Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy is favored to keep the seat in GOP hands.

Democrats didn’t even bother contesting Alabama, Oklahoma or South Carolina; they did recruit credible candidates in the rest of the races, such as Conner Eldridge in Arkansas, Jim Barksdale in Georgia and Jim Gray in Kentucky. But all lost by double-digit margins.

The Democrats’ best shots to pick up GOP-held seats were thought to be in Florida, where U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was challenging Marco Rubio, and in North Carolina, where Deborah Ross was challenging Richard Burr. Murphy lost by 8 points; Ross, by 7. Both actually underperformed Clinton in their states.

The only good news for Democrats came in races for governor in West Virginia, where Jim Justice kept the office in Democratic hands, and in North Carolina, where Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper appears to have ousted Republican Governor Pat McCrory, although that race may be headed for a recount.

U.S. Senate: Republicans hold on to all 8 of their Southern seats

Rubio and Burr beat back challenges in Florida, North Carolina; Kennedy and Campbell will contest runoff in Louisiana

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Republicans held on to all eight of their Southern U.S. Senate seats, with Marco Rubio in Florida and Richard Burr in North Carolina turning back strong Democratic challengers.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana’s all-party “jungle” primary, State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell will advance to a December 10 runoff for the open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

Kennedy led with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent, edging out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany at 15 percent.

Because Republicans already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.

In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents also won re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

With the wins on November 8, Republicans will hold 23 of the 28 Southern Senate seats, with Louisiana still to be decided.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

In Florida, Rubio had initially decided to give up his Senate seat to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. But after losing the White House contest, he changed course and filed to run for a second term, improving the GOP ‘s prospects for keeping the seat.

Rubio took 52 percent, defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who took 44 percent.

Alluding to his withdrawal from the presidential race in March, he told election night supporters in Miami, “This is a lot better than the last time I did one of these.”

Rubio, who had been a critic of Trump before reluctantly endorsing him, did not mention his party’s  victorious presidential standard-bearer in his speech, but he did make a plea for civility in politics.

“While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations,” Rubio said.

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

In North Carolina, Burr, seeking a third term, took 51 percent of the vote, defeating Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor, who took 45 percent.

“I am truly humbled by the support I’ve received from people across this state,” Burr said at a victory celebration in Winston-Salem. “This is a victory for all of those who have believed in me.”

In a state notorious for exchanging Senate seats between parties, Burr becomes the first senator to win three consecutive terms since Jesse Helms in 1984.

Here are the other Southern Senate results:

Shelby

Shelby

Alabama: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby won a seventh term by defeating Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist. by a margin of 64-36 percent. At the end of his new term, Shelby will be 88 and will have served in Congress for 44 years.

boozman-sm

Boozman

Arkansas: Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman won a second term by taking 60-36 percent for Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville. Boozman suffered an aortic aneurysm in 2014 that kept him away from Washington for two months.

Isakson

Isakson

Georgia: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson won a third term in the Senate by defeating Democrat Jim Barkdale, a wealthy Atlanta businessman, by a 55-41 percent margin. Isakson ran for re-election to a third term despite announcing in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

paul sm

Paul

Kentucky: Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by a margin of 57-43 percent. Paul had pursued re-election simultaneously with a presidential campaign until he dropped out of the White House race in February.

Lankford

Lankford

Oklahoma: Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford easily won his first full six-year term by defeating Democrat Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, by a margin of 68-25 percent. In 2014, Lankford was elected to finish out the final two years of Tom Coburn’s term after he resigned.

Scott

Scott

South Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, easily won a full six-year term by defeating Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor, by a margin of 61-36 percent. In 2014, Scott was elected to serve out the remaining two years of Jim DeMint’s term, after he resigned.

Republican U.S. Senate incumbents trying to fight off Democratic challengers

Florida and North Carolina are Senate battlegrounds; Louisiana holds all-party primary for Vitter’s seat

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Nine GOP-held Southern U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs in the November 8 election, with Republican incumbents heavily favored in six races.

The exceptions are Florida, where Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is facing off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, and in North Carolina, where the GOP incumbent, U.S. Senator Richard Burr, is facing Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor.

And in Louisiana, 24 candidates are running in an all-party “jungle” primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December 10 runoff, which could potentially decide the balance of power in the Senate.

Pre-election polls have shown Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy in the lead, followed by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat; Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette; and Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer.

If Kennedy and Boustany can both clear the runoff, the GOP would be guaranteed of keeping the seat, now held by U.S. Senator David Vitter. But if Campbell or Fayard can come through, the December 10 runoff will be the last word on Senate races this year — and, if the Senate is closely divided, decide which party controls the chamber.

In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents are seeking re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

All are heavily favored, although the race in Georgia between U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson  and Democratic businessman Jim Barksdale is somewhat more competitive.

In Alabama, Richard Shelby faces Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist; in Arkansas John Boozman is seeking a second term against Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville; and in Kentucky, Rand Paul is running against Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

In Oklahoma,  James Lankford faces Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, and in South Carolina, Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, faces Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor.

Trump, Clinton roll across the South on Super Tuesday

Trump carries five of seven Southern GOP primaries; Clinton takes six on Democratic side
SUPER TUESDAY SOUTHERN RESULTS
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lg(CFP) — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rolled across the South on Super Tuesday, carrying 11 of the 14 primaries and the lion’s share of the delegates up for grabs.

The only outliers were Oklahoma, which both Trump and Clinton lost, and the Republican primary in Texas, which went for homestate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

Trump and Clinton won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia in the March 1 vote. Clinton also won the Democratic primary in Texas

Super Tuesday was rough sledding for  U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who came in second place in Virginia and Georgia but could only manage a third-place finish in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas.

In addition to winning Texas and Oklahoma, Cruz finished second to Trump in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee. He was third in Georgia and Virginia.

While Trump won most of the Super Tuesday primaries on the Republican side, he cleared 40 percent only one Southern state, Alabama, which he swept by 18 points.

Trump also notched double-digit wins in Georgia and Tennessee. His victories in Arkansas and Virginia were narrow, 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Buoyed by her strong support among African-Americans, Clinton rolled up huge numbers across the South. With the exception of Oklahoma, which she lost by 10 points to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton’s support ranged from 64 percent in Virginia to 78 percent in Alabama.

Her margin of victory ranged from 29 points in Virginia to a staggering 59 points in Alabama.

The next Southern stops in the presidential race are:

  • Saturday, March 5: Kentucky (GOP caucus), Louisiana (primary)
  • Tuesday, March 8: Mississippi (primary)
  • Tuesday, March 15: Florida (primary); North Carolina (primary)
  • Tuesday, May 19: West Virginia (primary)

Southern Super Tuesday Results

ALABAMA
Trump—43%
Cruz—21%
Rubio-19%
Carson–10%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–78%
Sanders–19%

ARKANSAS
Trump—33%
Cruz—31%
Rubio-25%
Carson–6%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–66%
Sanders–30%

GEORGIA
Trump—39%
Rubio–25%
Cruz–24%
Carson–6%
Kasich–6%

Clinton–71%
Sanders–28%

OKLAHOMA
Cruz—34%
Trump—28%
Rubio–26%
Carson–6%
Kasich–4%

Sanders–52%
Clinton–42%

TENNESSEE
Trump—39%
Cruz–25%
Rubio–21%
Carson–8%
Kasich–5%

Clinton–66%
Sanders–32%

TEXAS
Cruz–44%
Trump–27%
Rubio–18%
Carson–4%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–65%
Sanders–33%

VIRGINIA
Trump—35%
Rubio–32%
Cruz–17%
Kasich–9%
Carson–6%

Clinton–64%
Sanders–35%

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announces 2016 GOP presidential run

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist pastor and TV host, is making his second try for the White House

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugHOPE, Arkansas (CFP) — Saying he wanted to take America “from hope to higher ground,” former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee kicked off his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination with a speech to an enthusiastic crowd in his hometown May 5.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

“I ask you to join with me today not just so I can be president, but so we can preserve this great republic,” Huckabee said during a speech at community college in Hope, a town of 11,000 in southwest Arkansas where former President Bill Clinton was also born. “With your help, and God’s, we will make that journey.”

In the opening speech of his second presidential campaign, Huckabee sounded a note of economic populism, saying “power and money and influence have left a lot of Americans lagging behind.”

“They work hard, lift heavy things and sweat through their clothes grinding out a living, but they can’t seem to get ahead or, in some cases, even stay even,” he said. “A record number people are enrolled in government-operated help programs like food stamps not because they want to be in poverty, but because they are part of the bottom earning 90 percent of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for 40 years.”

But Huckabee, an ordained Baptist pastor, also played to his natural base of religious conservatives on the issue of same-sex marriage, blasting federal courts for “criminalizing Christianity in demanding that we abandon biblical principles of natural marriage.”

“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law and enforce it,” he said. “The Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and they can’t overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s God.”

Huckabee said if elected, he would push for term limits on both Congress and the Supreme Court, whose justices now serve for life, and abolish the IRS. He also took a sharp shot at President Barack Obama’s diplomatic approach toward the Islamic world.

“When I hear the current president say he wants Christians to get off their high horse so we can make nice with radical jihadists, I wonder if he could watch a western from the 50s and be able to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are,” he said. “As president, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism. We will conquer it.”

Huckabee, 59, served as Arkansas governor from 1996 to 2007 and ran for president in 2008. With strong support from social conservatives, he won the Iowa caucuses and took seven other primaries, mostly in the South, before conceding to the eventual nominee, U.S. Senator John McCain.

Huckabee’s 2016 run was widely anticipated after he bowed out of his long-running Saturday evening talk show on the Fox News Channel in January. Noting his own financial sacrifice in leaving Fox, he asked his supporters for donations, while taking a swipe at Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and his other GOP rivals who currently hold elected office.

“I don’t have a global foundation or a taxpayer-funded paycheck to live off of. I don’t come from a family dynasty but a working family. I grew up blue collar and not blue blood,” he said, adding that other presidential candidates who currently hold elective office should resign.

“If you live off the government payroll and want to run for an office other than the one you’re elected to, then have the integrity and decency to resign the one you don’t want and pursue the one you decided you’d rather have.”

Though Huckabee moved from Arkansas to Florida when he took the job Fox after his 2008 loss, he regaled his hometown audience with details of his bucolic childhood in Hope.

“I ran trotlines all night at Bois D’Arc Lake with my dad and grandfather to catch catfish that we’d freeze and live off of for weeks,” he said. “It was here I was baptized in the Garrett Memorial Baptist Church after accepting Jesus in a vacation bible school when I was 10 years old. I truly went from Hope to higher ground.”

Huckabee is not the first presidential candidate to use Hope as a prop. In his 1992 campaign, Clinton also played up his roots in Hope, despite the fact that he had moved to the resort town of Hot Springs, in central Arkansas, at age 4.

Huckabee is the fourth Southern Republican to announce a 2016 presidential campaign, joining U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Other Southerners expected to seek the GOP nomination include former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas; U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas who went on to be elected to the Senate from New York.

Watch the video of Huckabee’s announcement speech:

Poll: Among Southern White House contenders, Rubio viewed most favorably by GOP voters

Republican voters in Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll had the least favorable view of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

southern states smWASHINGTON (CFP) — A new poll finds that among the eight Southerners considering a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is viewed most favorably by Republican voters.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

Fifty-six percent of Republican voters surveyed by in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll said they could see themselves supporting Rubio, while just 26 percent could not, a favorability gap of 30 points. Fourteen percent were undecided.

Not only was that the best showing among the potential Southern contenders, but it was better than every other expected candidate in the field except Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who had a favorability gap of 36 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, just 26 percent of Republican voters said they could see themselves supporting U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, while 51 percent — an outright majority — could not, an unfavorability gap of 31 points. However, 29 percent were still undecided about Graham.

The poll showed Republican voters may have largely made up their minds about three of the possible candidates in the race — former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. The percentage of undecided for all three was under 12 percent.

But substantial percentages of the GOP voters have not made up their minds about Graham, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, all of whom had undecided readings above 20 percent.

The margin of error in the poll, released March 11, was plus or minus 6.48 percentage points.

Here is how the other potential Southern candidates fared:

  • Huckabee: 52 percent could support, 40 percent could not support, 8 percent undecided. Favorability gap of 12 points.
  • Bush: 49 percent could support, 42 percent could not support, 9 percent undecided. Favorability gap of 7 points.
  • Paul of Kentucky: 49 percent could support, 40 percent could not support, 11 percent undecided. Favorability gap of 9 points.
  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: 45 percent could support, 40 percent could not support, 15 percent undecided. Favorability gap of 5 points.
  • Cruz: 40 percent could support, 38 percent could not support, 22 percent undecided. Favorability gap of 2 points.
  • Jindal: 36 percent could support, 25 percent could not support, 39 percent undecided. Favorability gap of 11 points.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas.

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