Thursday, October 19, 2017

CA-Sen Poll Good News for Dianne Feinstein

When it comes to understanding California politics and elections, few are better than Capitol Weekly. Out of state pollsters don't ever seem to be able to figure out who is going to vote and who won't. One piece of information that's publicly available is how many of the last five elections a voter has cast a vote in. Anyone participating in California campaigns knows that when you're targeting voters you go after "4s" and "5s." Those are people who've in either 4 of the last 5 elections or all 5.

When polling you want to heavily poll the "4s" and "5s," especially in a mid-term. Mid-terms draw less voters and the "1s" and "2s" have likely skipped previous mid-terms. Of course, there are exceptions. Young voters weren't registered for the last 5 elections and some people move to California from out of state. I don't know who Capitol Weekly surveyed in their latest poll but I trust them.

Capitol Weekly polled for the primary, asking people whether they preferred Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Democrat Kevin de Leon, or Republican John Cox. Cox is running for governor, so he won't be running for senate. Cox, however, was polled with 9% favorable 6% unfavorable that are 9%/6% with 14% having no opinion and 71% having never heard of him. He's pretty much “generic Republican" to the voters. They could've used almost any name.

In a hypothetical match-up between Feinstein, de Leon, and John Cox, Feinstein gets 40%, Cox 32%, and de Leon 15%. They don’t break down the vote by party but, but Cox’s number is high enough that Feinstein is getting no more than 5-10% of Republican voters. And there are likely a few more Republican points in the 13% undecided voters. If Republicans get 35% of the vote in the primary, De Leon would need Republican voters to split their votes among 3-4 candidates or he’d need to significantly eat into Feinstein’s 40%. This should be a wake up call to California GOP chairman Jim Brulte. He wants a Republican to make the general election. If one is on the ballot he's more likely to get better turn out to help Republicans down ballot. He needs someone with a little bit of name ID and a little bit of money. Neither has to be that big.

The hypothetical general election head-to-head for Feinstein and de Leon has Feinstein winning 36%-17%. In that election 28% said they wouldn’t vote for either. These are likely almost entirely Republican voters. In 2016 15% of voters left the race blank and that was pretty high compared to other states. It certainly would help de Leon in a general election if Republican voters were to leave the ballot blank. If they do vote, Feinstein will probably get 75-80%. Anything over 50% puts him further behind.

This poll is what I expected. There's little path to victory for de Leon due to top two.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kevin de León Ad

A Super PAC supporting Kevin de León is out with an ad. As expected de León is running as the progressive champion. As I've gone into in detail that's not going to win him a U.S. Senate seat.

So why are they positioning de León here? He has nowhere else to go. His resume is as a progressive champion. His reason for running is to be a progressive champion. Dianne Feinstein is vulnerable from a progressive position.

Don't they realize de León can't win if all he's running is as a progressive anti-Trump candidate? I'm sure they do but it's possible that progressives think that over half of California's voters will support a progressive.

Why run if they don't? I can give a few possibilities. Maybe the objective isn't for de León win but highlight progressive policies and move Feinstein and the rest of California to the left. De León is termed out of the state senate so why not do that?

What else? It may be macabre to say this but Dianne Feinstein will be 85 next year. While I haven't heard she isn't healthy that's years past the average life expectancy. It's possible that she withdraws due to illness or death before the primary deadline in March. While beating Feinstein might be nearly impossible de León could win a race she's not in. If that happens after the filing deadline Feinstein will still be on the ballot. You can't get off the California ballot once you're on. Yes, even if you die. If she were to finish top two, she'd advance to the November election, even though she wouldn't be able to serve. Either of those scenarios could put de León in the U.S. Senate.

If Feinstein is re-elected but can't serve her entire term de León will have an excellent argument that he should be appointed to the seat, since he will have gotten a lot of votes. And he'd have an excellent argument in a special election, along with name ID and a volunteer/donor base.

I'm not wishing ill on Dianne Feinstein. May she live a long life. But if I've considered the possibility de León's people have also.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kevin de León Will Challenge Dianne Feinstein

Kevin de León made it official. He's challenging Diane Feinstein for her U.S. Senate seat. I understand his desire to run. De León wants to be a senator. He wants to have a bold progressive in office. They think California, the leader of the resistance, is perfect for that. Clinton did win 30 points here after all.

Beating Dianne Feinstein one-on-one in a Democratic primary would be hard to do. She's got name ID, money, and is beloved. Feinstein is the establishment Democrat (Hillary Clinton) and de León's is the bold progressive Bernie Sanders. Sanders couldn't beat Clinton in a Democratic primary in California. He lost by 7%.

But wait. Am I forgetting that top two means no Democratic primary? I haven't, but I think de León has. Yes, it's possible de León finishes 2nd in the primary. It's debatable whether it's possible for him to finish 1st. Even if he does there's no way Feinstein finishes 3rd. He has to go up against Feinstein in November.

But wait. Am I forgetting that Kamala Harris won a Senate seat and she's fairly progressive? No, because Harris was running against an unknown Loretta Sanchez and de León is running against Dianne Feinstein. Harris didn't run on progressive policies. She never mentioned the environment, healthcare, or immigration. She ran on how she was a fearless fighter who sued everyone on behalf of Californians. Few people would be against a candidate the big corporations to cough up bucks for the average Californian.

Kevin de León's record isn't that he was the attorney general who took on big banks. His record is progressive champion and he wants to let you know Trump "demonizes our diversity. Attacks our civil rights, our clean air, our health access and our public safety." He's running on the idea that Trump is terrible and his voters are deplorables. While I shudder at a politician showing contempt for any of their constituents, the resistance will love it the more he does it.

If de León makes top two he won't be in an election with only Democratic voters. He'll have Republicans and moderate NPPs. They'll be somewhere between 34-41% of the electorate, but there'll be blank ballots. So the numbers may be 29-35%. If they are 33% and Feinstein takes 80% of them, de León would have to beat Feinstein 65%-35% with left leaning voters. Sanders got 46.5% of the vote. How's de León going to get 65%.

I'm doubtful de León gets 20% of right leaning voters. His ads will emphasize how he's going to stop the evil Trump is and how progressive he is. Harris gave Republicans a reason to vote for her. He's running on how he doesn't want their votes. Will de León even send mailers to Republicans to get their votes? What would those mailers say?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kevin de Leon May Challenge Dianne Feinstein

Per CNN California Democratic state Senate president Kevin de León will enter the 2018 California Senate election. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced her plans to run for re-election earlier this week.

Taking on a Democratic party icon like Feinstein will be a real challenge for de León. He's going to challenge her from her left, saying she's too moderate for California. There have been successful challenges to Republican senators from grassroots candidates to their right but it's rare. I can't recall a sitting Democratic senator losing a challenge from their left, so it's probably just as rare if not more so.

de León has several things working against him. He's unknown statewide and has no money in a campaign account yet. California is a very expensive state to advertise in even if you have money. Feinstein had $3.6 million as of June 30 and she's well known statewide already. de León could get a boost from progressive groups that know him. The California Nurses Association is a very powerful special interest group and they're likely to endorse de León.

Gavin Newsom is running far to the left in the gubernatorial race and is leading in polls. If it works for Newsom, why not de León? Newsom has advantages. There's no incumbent in his race, let alone a popular incumbent who's built up years of good will with the voters. Newsom is fairly well known statewide. He likely is getting a good share of Democratic and NPP voters who know him and think he'd make a good governor. Those people aren't currently in de León's camp. If he runs to Feinstein's left he's not going to try to get them.

If California's size and Feinstein's goodwill aren't enough of a hurdle California's top two primary creates a bigger one. In top two everyone gets to vote for any candidate they want from any party. Feinstein is popular with people who don't have a party preference and some Republicans. Especially if the alternative is further to her left. While he could conceivably get more votes than her among Democrats, he won't in top two.

The good news about top two is that de León will advance to November whether he finishes first or second. To finish second de León would likely have to beat a Republican candidate. Republicans tend to vote for Republicans, even the candidate is just a name on the ballot. In order to make top two de León actually needs Republicans to vote for Feinstein in the primary. He needs the remaining Republican vote to be spread out enough that no Republican gets more than than he does. His ceiling is probably 15-20% in a primary. de León would really benefit if Republicans don't coalesce behind one candidate, but split them among two or more. Right now the Republicans in the race are names on the ballot. So that benefits de León if it doesn't change.

Then he'd have to beat Feinstein in the general election. While Republicans voting Feinstein in the primary could benefit de León, he needs them to leave the ballot blank in the general election. But if they voted Feinstein in the primary she may have already gotten those voters for the general election. In 2016 two Democrats ran for Senate in the general election and 14% of the Californians who voted for President didn't vote for the Senate. In Pennsylvania that number was 1%. In New York it was 5%. So there is precedent for blank ballots.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How Many People Were Turned Away in Wisconsin?

17,000 People in Wisconsin didn't vote due to voter ID! 9,000 were turned away!

That's what the Washington Post is trumpeting today. If you look at the underlying data it's really questionable.

The first flaw in this is that 17,000 people didn't say the lack of voter ID deterred them from voting and 9,000 didn't say they were turned away. The researchers cherrypicked 2,300 people in the two lowest income counties in Wisconsin. Most surveys require people to be randomly selected. These weren't. They were picked because they expected certain results from them. They received only 293 surveys back in the mail. This should be a giant red flag. The people returning the questionnaire were self-selecting. They can't be proven to be representative of any larger group because of that. No serious survey would allow the respondents to be self-selecting. There's also the problem with the sample size being only 293. This is too small a sample to use.

African-Americans returned 35 surveys. Of these, 9 said they were deterred. Yes, you read that right. If only 35 people responded, the results are useless. The sample is so small that the results should be thrown out.

Of course people can say anything they want in a survey months later. The respondents could give any answer they wanted. It isn't verifiable. People can decide to vote or not vote for any number of reasons. Did a lack of voter ID come into play. Unless I'm missing something the researchers didn't verify these people lacked ID. They were only chosen because they didn't vote.

I'm actually surprised that only 11.2% of the respondents said they were deterred. Why return the survey if you aren't going to answer the key question yes?

About 6 percent of nonvoters said they tried to vote but weren’t allowed to. They claim that's 9,000 people in those two counties. This is a far easier number to verify. These people say they actually went to the voter table and were turned away. The state actually counted the number of people who showed up without proper ID and that number statewide was under 600. Of those, under 100 of their votes were disqualified. (There was an article earlier this year where the state gave out these numbers. I Googled and can't find it now) The Wisconsin Elections Commission could be lying, although that'd certainly be a huge scandal. This isn't a partisan entity but one that everyone trusts to count the vote.

Monday, September 25, 2017

California Governor Positioning Continues

As I mentioned a few months ago California could see a Gavin Newsom-Antonio Villaraigosa top two next November. Newsom is locking up progressives. If Villaraigosa wants to be Newsom, and first finish top two, he needs to position himself close enough to the center to win centrist and right leaning voters but not alienate that many Democrats.

Villaraigosa has an issue where he can do that. He has long fought with teachers' unions, something no progressive would ever do. And it's a great issue to veer away from Democratic orthodoxy. In the private sector unions are pitted against big "evil" corporations that don't care about their workers, only profits. Customers have little to no allegiance to the corporation and aren't really hurt if the union wins concessions.

Teachers' unions are up against the government. That's not some evil faceless corporation. That's you and me. The "customers" aren't car buyers or hotel guests. They're our kids. We might not side with hotel guests over hotel workers but we're going to side with our kids if we feel that what's good for the teachers isn't the best choice for our kids. Teachers' unions push that everything they want is what's best for the kids, but their needs, higher pay, job security, don't necessarily coincide with what's best for the kids.

Even a union representative will admit that.
“I don’t think he saw it as being anti-union in any way, but being sensitive to kids like he was, and for us to block the kinds of reforms he was supporting was doing a disservice to those kids,” said Pechthalt. “I would disagree with him but I don’t think it necessarily came from a bad place.”
Democrats and teachers' unions have painted Antonio Villaraigosa as anti-union and not sufficiently progressive. They'll do so in the gubernatorial election. That's normally a death knell to Democrats in elections but it actually is a benefit for Villaraigosa. He isn't going to win votes as the progressive champion. If Villaraigosa is to win votes from progressives it'll be with progressives who might see him as more competent or want a Latino governor.

Neel Kashkari was an unknown running against a California legend and spent very little money. He still got 40% of the gubernatorial vote. If Villaraigosa were to get 80% of the Kashkari vote he'd need to get about 30% of the Jerry Brown vote to win. Villaraigosa would need to position himself well. He needs to turn union support for Newsom into Newsom being in the pocket of special interests and being anti-student. He'll be criticized for Republicans supporting him. He needs to say, "they're Californians too and I want to be the governor for all Californians."

Top two would enable the more centrist candidate to win the election.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Are the Signs There for Democrats?

Democrats are encouraged about their prospects in congressional races in 2018. Is the year starting to skew Democratic?

There are a lot of Democratic Candidates Running
I’ve never seen anything correlating the number of Democratic candidates running and Democratic success. Darrell Issa is more likely to lose if he has seven Democrats running against him instead of two. It's certainly helpful if they challenge more Republicans than less, but that really wasn't the problem for Democrats in the past. Democrats had candidates in all but one of the Clinton districts a Republican congressional candidate won.

Fundraising is going well especially with grassroots progressive groups
Fundraising has never been a problem for Democrats and they seem to taut their fundraising advantage every cycle. There's evidence that a candidate needs to spend above a certain threshold for the voters to take him or her seriously, but after that's achieved spending isn't always an indicator of success. Democrats heavily outspent Republicans in the GA-6 race and they didn't win that. They didn't lose CA-49 in 2016 for lack of spending. They spent a lot.

Republican retirements are high
This is seen as an indicator for two reasons. First, these congressmen must know more than we do and that's why they're retiring. Second, open seats are much easier to flip. The problem here is that Republican retirements aren't all that high. Here are the numbers since 2006:

2006: 18R, 9D
2008: 27R, 6D
2010: 20R, 17D
2012: 19R, 22D
2014: 25R, 16D
2016: 25R, 18D
2018: 17R, 8D

What we see here is that Republicans have had higher retirement numbers in good Republican years and lower ones in good Democratic years. This year could be an all time high for Republicans but only 10 of the 17 Republican retirees are running for another office. in 2014 only 11 of the 25 retirees ran for another office. Generally, congressmen running for another office announce earlier to get an earlier start on campaigning. So right now 7 Republicans are actually retiring, compared to 14 in 2014. There were 20 retirements in 2016. I see no reason to think we'll get closer to the 20 than the 14 and Republicans actually did well with the 20 retirements last year.

While you may be hearing Republicans in competitive districts are retiring, that doesn't appear to be the case. Only 2 of the Republicans in a Clinton district is retiring. Donald Trump won Charlie Dent's PA-15 and Dave Trott's MI-11. Those could be competitive districts but they aren't going too be competitive solely on Donald Trump's unpopularity.

The Generic Ballot is Good for Democrats
This is true and the Democrats are better off with a good generic ballot than a bad one. The Democrats led for most of the 2014 and 2016 cycles, however, and lost the congressional vote each time. Polling seems to have had a tougher time finding Republican voters than it has in the fast. So this could be good for Democrats but it might not be.

2018 should be a good year for Democrats but I see nothing yet to tell me it definitely will be.