Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where McCain Did Better

When it comes to talking about the race in Pennsylvania-12 the media has discussed that it’s the only district McCain won and Bush did not in 2004. McCain had 5% less of the vote. So that’s not unexpected. In fact, the median change was McCain -5%, with 168 districts less than that, 56 at -5%, and 211 with McCain getting a lower share. There were only 26 districts where McCain actually got a higher share of the vote than Bush did.

1. McCain won 22 of the 26 districts, but there are 14 districts with a Democratic Congressman and 12 with a Republican. Democrats actually won 15, as Griffith (AL-5) switched parties.

2. The districts are heavily concentrated in certain states. He did better in all 5 Tennessee districts, all 4 Arkansas districts, 4 Louisiana districts, 3 Pennsylvania districts, 3 Massachusetts districts, 2 Alabama districts, 2 Oklahoma district, and 1 each in West Virginia and Kentucky.

3. McCain didn’t do better in any Arizona district

4. Some of the districts are very white. Before anyone cries racism consider that with Obama getting 96% of the Black vote it’s a lot less likely that he’d mitigate that.

5.In 8 of the 15 districts Democrats won there was no Republican on the ballet. That blows me away. Republicans are doing better and don’t field candidates. Republicans were 4 times more likely to not field a candidate in districts they’re getting more popular. It’s worth noting that only 1 of these races was competitive in 2004.

6. Of the 14 districts still represented by Democrats none were competitive, as the closest margin was 12 points.

7. Half of the 14 districts are open this election. In 5 of the 17 districts the Democrat retired. One is running for another office and John Murtha died. Only 4 other Democrats chose to retire. This is a bit too remarkable to be coincidence. McCain won 46 districts that Democrats won the House seat, but the far bigger factor in retirement is that he did better than Bush.

8. While none of the 14 districts were competitive in 2008 I rate 8 of them as flipping possibilities, with Tennessee-6 as a definite flip. I think the 3 with asterisks are safe, but others have them as possible flips. It makes you wonder about going unopposed even in a Democratic year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Do the Mid-Terms Predict Re-election?

If the Democrats lose big in the fall will that mean Obama is unlikely to get re-elected? If they don’t does it mean that he will? The answer to both is no. The last 12 Presidents to get re-elected lost an average of 33 House seats in the previous election. This includes massive losses of 61, 77, 72, and 54 seats. It also includes gains of 19 and 8 and losses of 4, 12, and 18. So he could win no matter how many seats he loses.

The sample size for losing re-election is only four Presidents, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. The circumstances of two of Hoover and Ford are unique. Hoover lost in the middle of a worldwide depression while Ford was running two years after his predecessor resigned. It’s fairly safe to say we won’t be in a 1930s depression and Obama isn’t going to resign. It’s worth noting that Hoover lost 52 seats two years prior and Ford lost 48, while Carter lost 15 and Bush lost 8.

This year’s election won’t tell us whether Obama will win in two years. But if he’s re-elected his party will likely pick up seats. In the last 11 re-election wins the President’s party has picked up seats 10 times and lost 2 in the other election. The gains haven’t been significant, however. Only Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson won more than 20 seats. When Hoover lost the Republicans lost 101 seats, but when Ford lost they lost only 1. Carter lost 35 seats, but the Republicans gained 9 when Bush lost. So there’s no strong indicator how the Democrats will do if Obama loses, although once again it appears unlikely they’ll pick up a lot of seats.

While this year’s gain and losses can’t predict Obama’s re-election they can predict the House gains or losses in 2012. In most cases a surge is followed by a similar decline. This year is a little different since the Democrats have picked up 52 seats over the last two elections. In 1974, however, the Democrats picked up 48 Republican seats and an additional 1 in 1976. The Republicans only picked up 15 seats in 1978 and then picked up 34 in 1980. After four elections the net pick-up was 0.

If the Republicans pick-up 20 seats this year I’d predict a strong 2012. If they pick up 50 I’d predict that 2012 will have only a handful going one way or the other. If they pick up 80 you’ll likely see the Democrats do well in 2012.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Senate Elections Swing II

As I discussed on March 30 Senate elections have a lot to do with the previous class of Senators and nothing to do with what happened in the last election and, don’t always follow a President’s mid-term ratings. That’s not to say environment has nothing to do with the elections. The last 3 times 12 or more House seats shifted at least 5 Senate seats also did. Of the 13 times before that, however, only 4 had a corresponding Senate gain.

In 1982 the Democrats picked up 27 House seats but only 2 Senate seats. In 1984 Republicans were +16 in the House (due to surge and decline) but actually lost 2 Senate seats. This despite Ronal Reagan’s landslide victory.

The reverse is also true. In 1986 the Democrats picked up 8 Senate seats and only 5 House seats. They were +11 in the House net from 1982 and 1984, so there was no decline. The election wasn’t strong enough for a surge. The Republicans had picked up 12 Senate seats in 1980. Losing a significant number of seats was inevitable.

The Senate isn’t immune to a party’s popularity. If the House gain is a surge there’s usually a corresponding Senate gain. Thus the Democrats winning big in the House and Senate in the last 2 elections. A party gaining 5 or more Senate seats in consecutive elections for one Senatorial class has happened 3 times before. Democrats gained 8 seats in 1930, but this followed losing 8 in 1918 and 1924. So when they gained 7 seats in 1936 it was a new surge. It was one followed by a 9 seat decline in 1942. Likewise the Republican gains in 1942 and 1948 were a Democratic decline with the former and a Republican surge with the latter.

The Republicans gained 9 seats in 1994. Democratic gains in 2000 were almost inevitable. Republicans won the White House, lost only 1 House seat but lost 5 Senate seats. The Democrats won another 5 in 2006. Because the net for 1994-2000 was Republicans +4 this could either be a Republican decline left over from 1994-2000 or a new Democratic surge. Regardless I wouldn’t expect Republican gains in 2012 if it isn’t a heavy Republican year.

In 2004 the Republicans picked up 4 seats after neither party picking up any in 1994. The last time there was a +4 gain without a surge the previous class election was 1966 for the Republicans. Democrats gained 2 Senate seats despite the Nixon landslide.

When a party gains a significant number of seats following two elections where the other party didn’t gain they lose seats. This didn’t happen once. Republicans gained 7 seats in 1938, no net in 1944, and a Republican gain of 5 in 1950. These did follow a 12 seat Democratic gain in 1932. The Republicans shouldn’t make Senate gains this year. Yet it appears they will break the statistical certainty that has ruled Senate elections since there was a direct election of Senators in 1914.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Lesson of California-10

One election that didn’t get a lot of press last was the California 10th district special election on November 3, 2009. This was a district that Ellen Tauscher won by 32 or more points in the four elections since redistricting in 2002 moved the more Republican areas into the 11th district. The candidates were well known Democrat John Garamendi, who’d spent 11 years in statewide elected office, and unknown Republican David Harmer. While Harmer did have significant spending he was outspent by Garamendi. Garamendi won the election by 10 points, 53% to 43%.

Next Tuesday there’ll be a special election to replace Robert Wexler in Florida’s 19th congressional district. This is a Cook D+15 district that Wexler and Barack Obama won in landslides in 2008. In the primary 77% of the voters voted in the Democratic primary. This election shouldn’t be close. So it’s received virtually no media coverage. If the margin is close it’ll likely show that the Scott Brown wave is still very strong .

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

House Ratings Update

My current projection is that the Republicans pick up 38 seats and the Democrats pick-up 8 for a net of 30 and a 227-208 split. Would the Democrats consider it a victory because they keep control of the House? Would the Republicans consider it a victory because they netted 30 seats?