Why Republicans will gain at least 9 seats in the Senate and reduce the number of Democrats in the House to below 190 seats, their lowest level since 1930.
The RCP average has Dems and Repubs deadlocked at 45 seats each, with ten more too close to call. Unfortunately for Dems, seven of those seats are in red states and three are in purple. Not one seat is being fought on favorable terrain where the President’s popularity might keep the Democratic senate nominee above water.
Speaking of which, President Obama is underwater himself. Not just underwater, but an anchor. At this point in the 2010 election cycle, President Obama was more unpopular than popular, but by only four points: approximately 49-45. Today the RCP average has the margin at 13 points, with only 41% of voters approving of the president’s job.
Worse than that, while the President himself is unpopular, his policies themselves are even more unpopular. A recent ABC/WSJ poll found disapproval for his presidency to be 51%. But the disapproval levels for his policies lagged even that: 54% against his handling of the economy, 56% against his international affairs, 56% against his implementation of health care, and 59% against his immigration policies. Worse still, now that terrorism is becoming a concern with more Americans, the greatest number of Americans ever support Republicans over Democrats on this issue by a 55 to 32 margin. Compared with 2010, Dems have fallen 10 points and Repubs have gained 4 on an issue they already led and that wasn’t a top concern four years ago. Republicans, who began the year thinking that they could again use Obamacare as a cudgel against Democrats, have discovered that they have a whole arsenal of clubs from which to choose to beat their opponents. On virtually every issue Democratic positions are overwhelmingly unpopular.
Still worse for Democrats is that re-districting since 2010 has worsened their position. Racial gerrymandering is the main culprit. Most of the 41 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be returned to Washington in January with huge margins of victory. Democrats have built these districts’ lines to ensure a large amount of black representation in Congress. Many such seats are more than 80% Democratic. In a 50-50 nation where one-tenth of the House seats are hugely Democratic, that leaves many fewer Democrats to sprinkle around the rest of the country. For years, Republicans have had a Brer Rabbit attitude toward Democratically-led racial gerrymandering, as it gives them a disproportionate edge in the rest of the country. So in House seats that aren’t CBC house seats, President Obama is on average even more unpopular than he already is nationally.
On this date four years ago the RCP average had the GOP favored in 207 seats and the Democrats in 193. All 35 tossups broke for the GOP. The House in big elections tends to break big for the winning side. This year, the GOP is favored to win 230 seats—27 more than they were favored to win at this time in 2010. Democrats are favored in only 188, 5 fewer than in 2010. Of the 17 tossups, 13 are currently Democratic-held. Just as in the Senate, Democrats are fighting a reeling defense everywhere in the House. Worse for Democrats is that between September 11, 2010 and the 2010 election, the map widened in the GOP’s favor. They saw their lead slip such that on election day, the RCP average had them ahead in only 171 seats. On average, every seat moved over one notch; seats that had been leaning Democratic became tossups, forcing Democrats to defend even more turf. If a similar movement occurs again, expect Democrats to see another dozen or so seats slip away where they are currently favored to win.
And here’s why that might happen. Democrats spent the summer of 2010 fluctuating between 41 and 44 percent support on the generic congressional ballot question. This summer they are in exactly the same place. In 2010 the GOP began its rise out of the same region right around the 4th of July. But until then they were neck-and-neck with the Dems. This year the GOP looks to have begun its climb about six weeks later and now finds itself five points ahead of where it was just three weeks ago and with the highest level of support it has enjoyed all year. If this is indicative of undecideds breaking against the Dems, it will reflect in races where Democratic incumbents currently look safe.
I’ve lived through three landslide midterm elections in my adult life and all of them looked like this. But neither 1994, 2006, nor 2010 looked this bad for the party in the White House until much later in the race. Plus, in 2006 Republicans had a firewall of eight untouchable seats. No matter what happened they would keep Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. This year Democrats have three fewer seats that are firmly out of reach of the GOP. Even the President’s home state of Illinois is not safe. While unlikely, a veto-proof GOP majority in the senate and as few as 175 Democrats in the House, is not out of range.
Why the GOP will miss its opportunity (again).
Republicans are not the Stupid Party™ for nothing. In 2010 and 2012 they made the mistake of nominating wackos and witches in swing states and even blue ones where they had credible alternatives who were almost guaranteed to win. This time the GOP applied an opposite, but equally stupid approach. In three states so Republican that a red dog could win, they renominated their RINO incumbents who were the only Republicans in those states who could possibly lose. Kansas, a state so Republican that FDR won there only twice, typified the stupidity, but Kentucky and Mississippi weren’t far behind. The national GOP, tone deaf as always, didn’t appreciate that the only thing less popular in Kansas than a Kansas Democrat was a Washington Republican. By propping up the dinosaur Roberts, they have ensured the loss of a seat they couldn’t lose.
Almost as bad as Republican leaders are Republican voters. In 2010 complacency cost them seats they were going to win. Going into election day, Republicans led in Colorado and Nevada and were tied in Washington. They lost all three seats. In fact, the Republican candidate failed to beat the final RCP average in every single tossup state. The Obama turnout machine turned out while Republicans stayed home thinking that they already had the win.
And in 2010 Democrats gave Republicans an incentive they don’t have now: Nancy Pelosi. Sure, she is still around. But she no longer leads the House. Almost as unpopular as she was at her nadir, is the GOP’s John Boehner. “A pox upon both your houses” is the voters’ mood.
That thinking is evident in the generic congressional question, where this year, Republicans have never been able to break away from the Dems. If “none of the above” were a choice, it would probably win. Without a hated nemesis and with lackluster leadership of their own, a landslide victory—or even control of the Senate—is not going to happen.
UPDATE: Jay Cost notes a similar trend to what I stated in the first part of this post
All in all, this is precisely the sort of poll you do not want to see if you are a Democrat. With less than two months until the 2014 midterm, Republicans are polling stronger in the NBC/WSJ poll than at any point since … two months before the 2010 midterm.
If you like wonky political analysis, Dan “Baseball Crank” McLaughlin has an excruciatingly detailed look at what the historical record portends for the 2016 political landscape.
McLaughlin’s conclusion based on evaluating every presidential election since the American Civil War is that a party that enjoys presidential incumbency for eight straight years almost always sees a drop-off in support in the following election. While this isn’t an earth-shattering result–almost all political analysts recognize that after two successful elections, it is very hard to win a third–McLaughlin shows that the mathematics behind this phenomenon are nearly unanimous. Even when parties do win third elections (FDR in 1940, and George H W Bush in 1988, for example), there is a pronounced drop-off in the amount of support that the incumbent party gets compared to the previous election’s results.
While I urge you to read the article, that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I saw something in one of McLaughlin’s charts that has caused me to question a bit of conventional wisdom that I have always before accepted.
Conventional wisdom holds that higher voter turnout favors Democrats over Republicans. So take a look at this chart from McLaughlin’s analysis. What this shows is the total presidential vote count for each party as well as the total number of voting eligible age non-voters from 1980 to 2012.Look at the blue line for Democrats. Aside from 2008 it is remarkably steady. So steady, in fact, that with an R-squared of .978, a Democratic candidate for president can expect to receive 3.87 million more votes than the Democratic nominee did four years before. Again, aside from 2008, in the last ten presidential elections, the Democratic nominee never over or underperformed this projection by more than 2.2 million votes. I’ve reproduced just the Republican and Democratic data below and added the linear trend that is fitted to 1980-2012 Democratic vote totals except for the outlier year of 2008.
In 2008 Barack Obama overperformed the trend line by an astounding 8.5 million votes as he turned out an anomalously large number of youth, minorities, and independents. Four years later, Obama overperformed the Democratic trend by a mere 1.1 million votes, a much more historically normal result.
Now look at the red line for the number of Republican votes. It is all over the place. In 1984 and 1988, when Democratic performance was almost exactly in line with the historical trend, Republicans outdistanced them by 17 million and 7 million votes. In 1992 and 1996, when Democrats only slightly underperformed their trend, Republicans fell woefully short by 6 million and 8 million votes.
Wondering how far back the trend line goes, I plotted the same data for all post-war presidential elections. Prior to 1980 there is more Democratic variability than in subsequent years, but the extreme linearity of the trend disappears at least before 1972. (If we consider, back to 1972, the 1976 election joins the 2008 election as an outlier. These two elections, Carter’s post-Watergate election and the first election with a black man on the ballot, might indicate that modern Democrats have very little independent or cross-over appeal, and that when it does occur, it happens only as a result of an uncommon circumstance.)
What’s interesting about the period between 1972 and 1980 when this pattern appears to have established itself is that this was the time when the Democratic Party completed its realignment. Previously it had been a coalition of geographies: white Southerners and urban Northern Catholics. Bouncing in and out of the Democratic coalition before then were Midwestern farmers, Northern Protestants, and blacks.
What has changed since is that the Democratic coalition is now almost entirely demographically based and includes nearly all black voters, a solid majority of Hispanics, and a steady percentage of women. Aside from these groups, there is very little bouncing in and out of the Democratic coalition since the 1970s. Again, with the exception of 2008 when Barack Obama greatly expanded his party’s vote before it collapsed back to its normal self four years later, the only growth Democrats have seen over the last four decades looks to be entirely dependent on the population growth of its constituencies.
Of course, many Democratic pundits and strategists would take comfort from such a conclusion. After all, at least one portion of the Democratic triad (Hispanics) is growing faster than the general rate of population growth. (McLaughlin addresses this point in another post here.)
On the other hand, the record of the last ten elections indicates that Republicans have far more upside potential, having bested the Democratic trend line by five million or more votes on four occasions. Democrats have never beaten that same trend by even half that amount except for once.
Of course, Republicans have also far underperformed the Democratic trendline. In 1992 and then again in 1996 voters who might have voted Republican either didn’t vote or voted for H. Ross Perot, and in 2012 a milquetoast Mitt Romney couldn’t even manage the Republican vote total amassed eight years before when the country’s population was nearly 20 million people fewer.
Sean Trende has made this point before:
” . . . census data and exit polls reveal that some 6 million white voters opted to sit out [the 2012] election. The data show these non-voters were not primarily Southerners or evangelicals, but were located in Northeast, Midwest and Southwest. Mainly, they fit the profile of “Reagan Democrats” or, more recently, a Ross Perot supporter. For these no-shows, Mitt Romney was not a natural fit.”
Less hitched to demography, Republicans are a coalition of ideas that in some years have more or less overlap and appeal than in other years and are more or less represented by a particular nominee.
In other words, the electorate includes really only two types of people: reliable Democrats who always vote no matter the nominee, and potential voters who will almost never vote Democrat but might vote Republican if their nominee can persuade them. Furthermore the number of the latter vastly exceeds the former. While in most years Democrats achieve a very predictable result based almost entirely on the mechanics of population growth, this raw political landscape allows Republicans the opportunity to enjoy earth-shattering landslides when it chooses well, or to suffer soul-crushing defeats when it does not.
And that brings us back to the question of turnout. The conventional wisdom is that because the Democrat’s voter base includes groups with historically lower turnout rates, they are the ones to benefit from higher turnout. However, the record of the last forty years places nearly the entire burden for victory on the ability of the GOP presidential nominee to excite that portion of the electorate that was never going to show up to vote for the Democrat anyway.
Whenever you feel yourself about to utter the I-word (impeachment), Stop it! Just Stop it!
It makes you look like a fool, much like the President made himself look like a fool when in the space of a single sentence he contradicted himself when he said of the arrest of a black Harvard professor: we don’t yet know the facts of the case, but the police acted stupidly.
We don’t yet know enough of the facts surrounding Benghazi-IRS-AP to really know what happened, certainly not enough to begin saying the I-word.
So when you find yourself about to say the I-word, take Bob Newhart’s advice:
“S-T-O-P . . . new word . . . I-T!”
Da Tech Guy agrees: The Impeachment Trap.
If it gets to the point where what we know is that damning, it will be Democrats who will be screaming the I-word so as to distance themselves from crimes. Until then. Stop it!
Rep Chaffetz and National Review’s Andrew Johnson: Stop it!
Tim Dunkin: Stop it!
Sen Inhofe: Stop it!
Pamela Geller: Stop it!
In doing some housecleaning, I found this forgotten essay that I wrote in February and never got around to posting. With only a few changes for the sake of grammar, and clarity, here it is:
For the first time in over two years I’m afraid that Republicans could actually lose the race for the White House in 2012. Should they do so, especially in light of the enormous advantages they have over a dysfunctional Democratic Party in 2012 (high unemployment, stagnant growth, unpopular programs foisted upon the public, and an unlikable mob–OWS–as the face of liberal activism, just to name a few) it should disqualify the GOP from ever holding the presidency ever again. If the GOP loses the presidency, it will be the biggest victory of an outclassed mismatch since Aesop’s rabbit blew the race with the turtle.
So how could this be? Simple, there isn’t a candidate who can unite the opponents of Barack Obama. That alone would probably be enough to win in November.
Comparisons with Reagan, just as comparisons with FDR or JFK, almost never measure up. That’s not because those three men were supermen–they weren’t–but because in retrospect each of them is bigger now than they ever were at the time. Nonetheless, Reagan’s genius was in recognizing that politics is the art of addition, and not about subtraction or division. That is still true.
The most recent not-Romney is Rick Santorum. He is most closely associated with the “social conservative” wing of the Republican Party. This is an important member of the family of conservatism, but like its siblings–Fiscal, Defense, Libertine, and Law N. Order–none of the conservative brethren are capable of striking out on their own. Still, that’s what Santorum did, when he linked his opposition to the recent Obama decision to force abortificants upon churches to the canard of “birth control isn’t safe. That is the message of subtraction. It is a position that attracts none but the already converted. Even worse, it is a message so offensive to so many (not to mention, so factually incorrect) that it repels those who might otherwise be attracted to his position were it couched in different terms.
What I mean bythat is this: a Republican must unite the whole party around a simple message that resonates with all its wings. And that message is the same now as it was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan put all conservative factions under the banner of “Leave Us Alone.”
“Leave us Alone” applies to Catholics justifiably outraged by the government trampling upon their First Amendment rights. After all, even if you disagree with the Church’s religious position, you must admit, the First Amendment accords to all religions the right to be wrong, otherwise, the right is not a right at all if its only protection is to protect popular positions. Had Santorum cloaked his argument in “Leave Us Alone,” he would have acknowledged the freedom of churches to decide what medical procedures they would pay for, but would do so without appearing to compromise the right of people to choose to do otherwise with their own money. It is a message consistent with (or at least, not in opposition to) the other conservative brothers.
Rick Santorum is hardly the first to make this blunder. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman, each fell by failing to embrace a logically coherent message. The problem, I suspect, is that “Leave Us Alone,” or at least its implications, is not a message that any of the current Republican candidates really embrace. For if you truly wish to be left alone, it implies a reciprocal obligation to leave others alone as well. For defense conservatives that means that if you want others to leave America alone, you must let be those military threats that are non-existental in nature: Libya and the Taliban, for example. To the law and order conservative, it implies a level of tolerance to at least some of those activities, like prostitution and minor drug abuse, that are distasteful, but are not a threat to any but those who engage in them. To the fiscal conservative, “Leave Us Alone,” requires that we not fund any good ideas with public moneys, since, if they realy were ”good ideas,” they would find ample private funds.
You see, it’s not simply about “messaging” your support for or opposition to programs. It’s about actually believing your message and all its implications. And when you believe in your message, you are consistent with your message. If there is a Republican killer this year, consistency will be its name. That’s why it’s time to unite the Republican brand around the simple message of LEAVE US ALONE.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Monday, 26 November 2012
The cynic in me thinks that this would have happened before November if Intrade had ever indicated a possible Romney win: Intrade shuts out American bettors.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Thursday, 8 November 2012
Two months ago today I posted this analogy between the 2012 presidential race and the one concluded just eight years before. It seems worthy of review again today.
” . . . pinning your party’s hopes on the most vocal advocates of a highly controversial social issue, when there is near universal agreement that other issues are more important, gives your party’s megaphone to those who are both extreme and irrelevant. Sandra Fluke is this year’s Terri Schiavo. For every already-Democrat she inspires to vote, she turns off at least one independent for the crime of insulting them by ignoring larger issues. Karl Rove’s plan to drive up Evangelical turnout in 2004, while it worked then, gave rise four years later to Mike Huckabee, who is perhaps the most demagogic and dangerous major presidential candidate to have run for office since William Jennings Bryan beclowned himself and his party in the late 19th century. It should have taken years for the GOP to disassociate its reputation from Huckabee’s form of Evangelical theocracy. Except now it appears that Democrats look ready to rush into their own version of anti-First-Amendment totalitarianism that, instead of forcing adherence to religious views, forces opposition to them. Most Americans hate both extremes of this tangential debate.”
Sean Trende wrote along similar lines today:
“Democrats, like Republicans today, were despondent. Aside from having a president they loathed in the White House for four more years, they were terrified by what seemed to be an emerging Republican majority. John Kerry had, after all, hit all of his turnout targets, only to be swamped by the Republican re-election effort. “Values voters” was the catchphrase . . . “
But 2004 was a Republican heyday, not matched by GOP turnout since. If Mitt Romney had only secured John McCain’s numbers, he would have come exceedingly close in the popular vote and would have picked up at least Ohio. If he had reached Bush’s levels, he would have won.
However, that is not to say that, had white turnout not fallen so precipitously this year, that Romney would have been victorious. (Sean Trende did not conclude that, although one might get that impression from what he wrote.) In fact, my own analysis of the effect of marginally likely voters tells me that had turnout increased, Mitt Romney would have lost even more.
I usually eschew labels because they are often ambiguous and imprecise. Just what is a conservative, for example? Leaving aside the fiscal, there are two other predominant conservative flavors: Western and Southern. Western conservatives are live and let live. A hard life eked out of mountains and prairies requires independent men. Southern conservatives, on the other hand, are too often perceived (often correctly) as operating in fear that somewhere someone might be having sex.
My daughter, who attends a conservative Catholic high school in the South, and who, the night before, was in tears over the result of the race, told me that she and her friends wonder about opposition to gay marriage: “Why is it such a big deal what other people do?” I think that she is right. But that is a Western conservative position of live and let live.
Republicans have lost Colorado now two elections in a row. Usually the excuse is an influx of Hispanics who lean Democratic. But I think that explanation falls dreadfully short. Two states north in Montana there is nary a Spanish accent around. It is less than 3% latin and is one of whitest states in the land. Bush beat Kerry there by 21 percent. Eight years later Romney’s margin had fallen to only 7 points.
It isn’t just gay marriage. But the GOP’s fascination with the sexual values of others has made it too easy for Democrats to caricature a party so full of Akins, that Mourdocks, who attempted nuanced arguments about life’s value, were left screaming voiceless into the wind. Vaginas and Flukes convinced not a single voter to vote Democratic, but they did make Republicans toxic to any who might be on the fence.
Live and let live, a philosphy logically consistent with fiscal conservtism, is leaving the GOP. They certainly aren’t turning Democratic, but they are turned off by the Republican brand. Meanwhile the “values voters” that propelled Bush to victory are dying off and not being replaced. Western states are flipping blue, not because Democrats are winning there, but because Republicans have chosen a losing philosophy around which to unite their base.
East of Helena by 2,500 miles sits a state that flies under a similar Gadsden flag. The “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire was once a reliable red island in a very blue sea. However, not since 2000, the last year when Republicans weren’t hitched to a Southern conservative wagon, has it voted GOP. Similar to the excuse offered about Colorado, the GOP’s decline is blamed on immigration. But again, that falls short. “Massholes,” as they are often derogatorily known, don’t flee the taxes of the Bay State to impose them on their new home. Upper New England, with its hardscrabble history, is the home of the original Western Conservative. Populated by a large number of refugees of Massachusetts’ puritanism, the area has long rejected the efforts of others to impose social mores.
This is who we once were as a country. The most lopsided presidential election of the last hundred years was won by a Republican from Upper New England, Calvin Coolidge, who would no longer recognize his GOP home. Silent Cal would abhor Huckabee Republicans who would tell others how to live in their bedrooms, just as he would abhor Barack Obamas and Mike Bloombergs who wish to control every other room of the house. Most Americans, like Coolidge before them, hate both extremes of this tangential debate.
UPDATE: Here’s an observation from the Democratic side of their own problems:
I did some work with OFA this year and my humble opinion is that the current Democratic party is on borrowed time. We’ve become TOO big of a tent when in reality white liberals essentially have nothing in common with Latinos or African-Americans. By pandering so much to specific identity groups we have driven white men away in droves and will soon start losing moderate women and Latinos as well. It’s a very awkward arrangement and instead of a party with a consensus of interests, we are the “Not the GOP” party. The GOP will figure it out with Latinos, to whom they have much to offer, and will moderate many of their stances or not speak of them at all. Pro-life is actually becoming a majority report and liberals an extreme minority. It will be interesting to see what happens to us going forward.
“We are not the Republicans” is no more successful of a slogan than the 2012 slogan of “We are not Obama.” In fact, that was John Kerry’s 2004 platform and it failed then too.
In many ways both parties are still vestiges of our geographic precursors, only instead of disparate geographic regions, they are now inconsistent constituencies. Reagan was supposed to have changed that by coalescing Republicans around an ideology. That ideology was ”leave us alone.” Leave us alone so that we don’t have to pay crippling taxes. Leave us alone from excessive government restrictions. Leave us alone to worship our gods. At a time when being a social conservative meant having legitimate concerns about bussing and crime, it was easier to coalesce an outcast minority to the cause. But here’s the rub for social conservatives: crime is no longer an issue. Nor is bussing. Social conservatives won. However, once they went on the offensive, opposition to gay marriage and immigration, for example, they no longer had the sympathetic argument of the victim oppressed by the world. They were the oppressors, imposing their views on people who just wanted to be left alone. If Republicans could look past their legacy ideas and groups, they might be able to link together a party, not by cobbling together groups disassociated from the other, but by building a cohesive party united around a logically consistent message and cause.
I encourage you to read Meghan McArdle’s article at the link and stroll through the comments.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Wednesday, 7 November 2012
In a few days we should have nearly complete data about the final vote. Analysis of what it all meant can wait until then.
. . . For the time being then I’m going to work on the much more enjoyable task of finishing my novel about wine, and the even more frustrating task of trying to put together a small business in our hyper-regulatory environment.
I’ll leave you with one final political pondering I expect to muse about these next few weeks:
Is the Republican Party an irretrievably damaged brand?
As polls begin closing in the Eastern time zone, I am actually rather complacent about the outcome. Yes, I voted for Mitt Romney, and yes, I want him to win. But I guess I have a fatalistic view about what happens regardless of which man wins tonight.
Here is what I envision over the next four years:
The bond yield is going to skyrocket as inflation begins to take hold. That will push up the deficit because of the increased interest the government will have to pay to its creditors. The effects of inflation will be horrible. We’ll do something stupid to forestall this, like feed even more debt to the Fed. It won’t work. Inflation will find our door. But if I’m wrong, and inflation doesn’t come, that is almost as bad, as it means another four years of super low interest rates and a corresponding dearth of interest income and saving. Four more years of baby boomers retiring with no increase in interest rates is very bad indeed.
Regardless of who is in charge, America will still be held back by the sclerotic state of the nation’s bureaucracy. As Meghan McArdle pointed out recently, there have been plans for hardening the essential infrastructure of the NY/NJ area for years. It would have been nice to have last week. Those plans are still in review. They will still be in review a decade from now. This, in a city that saw the Empire State Building go from a hole in the ground to completion in less than 14 months. Obamacare is just the latest circle of bureaucratic hell through which America’s entrepreneuers must wade, and even if Romney is elected, much of it, I am saddened to report, will remain intact. At some point our economic engines are like Napoleon’s troops invading Russia: supply lines were so long that there was no room for anything else in the carriage but the fodder for the horses pulling the carts. There was nothing left to do then but to eat the horse. I fear that we’re nearing that point.
An even bumpier economic ride is overdue overseas. China is on the edge of a cliff; its coming catastrophe will either be economic or cultural. Probably both. Japan is nearing the end of its free money holiday. With the highest debt load in the developed world as well as the oldest population, Japan is not just an economic mess, but serves as a warning to others who are quickly tracing the same path. Even more concerning is that China and Japan are both still very closed societies; they are unlikely to search earnestly and inwardly for blame or solution. It is easier to look outside for blame. And then there’s Europe: beset by unbridgeable divides, it will collapse with rippling economic, cultural, and perhaps even military effects upon the United States.
Unfortunately our competitors and enemies will not bide their time these next four years. Our foolishness in the Middle East and in North Africa has placed America in a damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t situation. But of the two, doesn’t–disengagement–offers the least potential downsides. Regardless of who is elected, we won’t disengage. Instead we will continue to reinforce failure overseas just as we have for years. As for Russia . . . enough said.
We are an nation divided evenly between two irreconciable ideologies. On the one side is the collectivist progressive who knows that by centralizing control in the hands of leaders empowered by special powers, that America will be a fairer place. On the other side is the rugged individualist who knows that if he were freed of extraordinary restrictions that he could accomplish extraordinary things and that will make America a stronger place.
This is not a new conflict. In fact, it’s the conflict that gave birth to our nation, when we left England and an anointed elite behind. But we didn’t leave it entirely behind. And by degree, collectivism has returned. For decades we have been able to paper over the differences between the two camps through the incredible surplusses that we have amassed. But those surplusses are soon to come to an end.
We could forestall that day, perhaps even reverse time. But unfortunately, even if Mitt Romney wins tonight, he will not win with a mandate for real change. Thus we will toddle down Japan’s path to our own end. At least that beats sprinting there.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Tuesday, 6 November 2012
If there is one place in the whole of the United States where Barack Obama has to do his very best today, it is Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County. Four years ago this one county gave Obama 258 thousand of his 260 thousand vote lead in the Buckeye State. If you took away Cleveland, Ohio’s other 87 counties were seven points more Republican than the 2008 national average.
Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, is traditionally Democratic–only once in the last 40 years has it given more votes to the GOP nominee for President–and that was in 1972 when Nixon still got less than 50% of the total vote in the county. Between 1996 and 2004 the county gave between 29 and 34 percent more support to the Democratic candidate. In 2008 Obama’s Cleveland support exceeded McCain’s by 38 points.
That is why Republicans need to escape Cuyahoga County with a smaller margin stacked against them than their 258,000 deficit of four years ago. To do so, Republicans need to either see Cleveland’s turnout drop and/or increase the GOP share of the vote in the rest of the state.
On that first score, it doesn’t look good for the GOP. The below comes from Cuyahoga County Board of Elections data from Saturday. It shows an overall increase in the number of absentee ballots returned: 228,905 with two days left in the race in 2012 versus a total of 210,592 in 2008. Even more concerning is where those returned ballots are coming from. This includes only the 33 most populous communities in the county (so as to remove a few small communities where a change in just a couple dozen votes wildly skews the percentage) and ranks them from least to most Republican.
I’ve highlighted the city of Cleveland itself, which accounts for one-quarter of the county’s total ballots received. By Saturday it had already received 32% more mail-in votes than they did in 2008. What is clear from this chart is that vote-by-mail turnout has increased by the highest amount in the most Democratic communities in Ohio’s largest Democratic County.
But what of those reports that early voting is down for Democrats in Ohio? It is. Even in Cuyahoga County, early voting through Sunday was down 15% from 2008. The problem for Republicans is that the number of vote-by-mail absentee votes is five times as large as the number of those who vote in person. So while there were about 7,400 fewer in-person early voters in Cuyahoga County than there were in 2008, the number of by-mail voters increased by almost 19,000 with still another two days to go. At roughly 2:1 in favor of Obama, that’s a net gain of about 8,000 more total early votes from four years before.
I see that some Republicans are arguing that Democrats have cannibalized their election day voters by getting them to vote early. Sorry, as much as I’d like to believe that, I’m not buying it; at least not in Cleveland. If early and absentee numbers were down, I’m certain that the GOP would be crowing about it being indicative of diminished Democratic enthusiasm, as they are claiming in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia. Republican spin on that issue in Ohio sounds too much like a “heads I win, tails you lose” argument. Instead, I’m going with the less nuanced notion that early voting turnout is a reflection of enthusiasm.
And on that count, there is a lot of good news for Ohio Republicans. The data for the below chart comes from a website run by Michael McDonald, a professor at George Mason University and fellow at the Brookings Institute. This data source does not have all of the state’s 88 counties. He provides numbers for only 53 and I’ve included the 25 largest. It also doesn’t exactly match what I have from Cuyahoga County, but I think that is because his data is harvested on a different date. (It’s also not clear if it includes in-person voting; however, the magnitude of the numbers indicates that it does include by-mail votes, which are the much larger number of the two.
The chart clearly shows that the more Republican a county, the greater the increase in early vote turnout over 2008 levels.
I’ve labeled a few communities.
The counties containing Ohio’s largest northern cities are its Democratic strongholds (Akron, Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown). Early voting turnout there, while on par with or up from four years ago is lagging the much larger increases in other parts of the state.
Look at Columbus’ Franklin County. This is the largest city in the state (Franklin Co. is the second-largest county). It also includes The Ohio State University and its 80,000 students and staff. Franklin County has trended more Democrat over the years, but not usually by as much as it did in 2008. In 2012 it looks to have the lowest rate of early voting of any county in the state compared to four years ago. If this is a reflection of Obama’s GOTV efforts on major Midwestern college campuses (Madison, State College, Twin Cities, and Ann Arbor–I’m talking about you), then this has got to be making Obama concerned.
Look also at the two biggest turnout changes on the list. Jefferson (Steubenville) and Tuscarawas Counties are in Ohio’s coal country. There are 32 coal counties in the Buckeye State. Most of them are smaller, and therefore, don’t appear on this list. But I imagine that they are all trending the same way. Notice also that these counties were deep purple four years ago–only 76 votes separated Obama and McCain in Steubenville. If the upward trend in early voting is an indicator of enthusiasm, I strongly doubt that it is enthusiasm for Obama. This is not a good Obama omen for Pennsylvania.
Finally, look at Warren County. This suburban ring county sits to the northeast of Cincinnati. Between Warren and its two similar size neighbors, Butler and Clermont (not in McDonald’s database), the three counties voted for McCain over Obama by a margin of well over a hundred thousand votes. All three counties are also three of the fastest growing in the state. However, they haven’t grown by 30% in four years. That increased turnout is enthusiasm, and I expect to see it at similar levels in Butler and Clermont as well.
Bottom line from what I’m seeing in Ohio: Obama has to be happy with what he’s seeing in early voter numbers in absolute-must-win-big Cuyahoga County. But when he compares it to the rest of the state, he should be afraid.
UPDATE: Based on the enthusiasm that I’m seeing ine early vote numbers in Ohio in other portions of the state, if Barack Obama’s lead in Cuyahoga County is less than 230,000 votes, the President should stock up on bourbon instead of champagne. More than that won’t gurantee an Obama win, but less will almost certainly result in a loss.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Tuesday, 6 November 2012
Let me begin by saying that whomever calls it closest doesn’t necessarily win. Sure, I trumpet Rasmussen’s 2008 prediction, but that is simply to demonstrate to those who think that he is a partisan hack that he has a pretty decent track record and cannot be discounted for partisan leanings without being guilty of partisanship yourself.
Before we can answer who grades this election right, we have to first revisit a little basic statistics. Let’s first assume that we have populations large enough as to approximate infinity (we do). Theoretically then, if we want to release polls within a 90% confidence interval (most are 90 or 95 percent, but often they don’t say, so I assume the lower percent), then we need a representative sample of about 1,200 voters to get a margine of error of about 3%. That means that if you gather a 100 different representative samples of 1,200 respondents each, on average, 90 of them will give you the right answer to within a range of about +/- 3 points.
Whoever then gets closest, even if they do everything right in terms of gathering their sample, is as much a game of chance as skill. If the final result is a 50-50 ties, Acme Polling’s November 6th estimate of a 2-point Obama lead is not necessarily worse than Pollco’s prediction that same day of a tie. Let’s look at those two polling companies and see who better tracked the ultimate result.
So who did the better job polling this race? If you go by final result, you would say Pollco because their last poll predicted the ultimate result of a tied 50-50 race. However, if you look at each poll over the last ten days, you see that Pollco average an Obama lead of 6 points while Acme Polling’s average was a tie. It just so happened that on the final day of polling Pollco got a lucky break with their sample, while Acme Polling got a sample that gave them a result within their margin of error. It just happened to be the one-day-in-ten when Pollco was outside their four-point margin of error. However, Pollco’s methodology overall was clearly biased in Obama’s favor. (In statistics ”bias” is a neutral term that has nothing to do with ideology.)
When it comes to determining who did the best job of estimating today’s election, we’re going to have to look at not just the overall result, but their track record as well. If Romney wins by five points, for example, then there is an argument to be made that Gallup did a better job than Rasmussen, because for a longer period of time Gallup was closer to the final result, even though both organizations will have missed it by four. If Obama wins by three, then we’re probably looking at giving the laurels to IBD/TIPP.
Bottom line: you can’t just look at the final number; you have to consider the track record to know which polling company did the best job.