Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Senate and House Race Ratings

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Senate Mid-Terms Explained

In the last post you concluded that a President’s party loses seats because they win those when the President is elected and then revert back to “normal" the following election? Is it the same in the Senate?
No. The Senate is different than the House. In the House, all 435 seats are up every two years. Thus, a Republican leaning district that goes Democrat is likely to go back to the Republicans in the next non-Democratic election.

The Senate only has a third of the seats up every two years. In a Republican year, like this one, Republicans can count on gains in Republican House districts because all Republican districts are up this year. The Senate has another factor, which seats are actually up for election. Democratic losses could be limited because roughly half the senate seats up for election are Republican seats.

In Democratic years like 2006 and 2008, the Democrats made gains in both houses. Two thousand four was a Republican year that showed good gains in the Senate but only three in the House. Republicans were near their peak in the House, but the Senate field was 21 Democratic seats and 15 Republican seats. Thus, Republicans had more opportunity there.

In 1986, Republicans lost five House seats and eight Senate seats. They weren't bloated in the House, but they won 12 Senate seats in 1980. They needed a very Republican year to hold onto those seats. A more neutral year resulted in a lot of losses. Sometimes a wave leads to gains in the Senate as well as the House, but only if there is opportunity.

So it's a Republican year in terms of electorate. Is it a Republican year in terms of opportunity?

No, but that might not be a bad thing. Republicans have 18 seats up this year, but only 23 in the next two cycles. Democrats, on the other hand, have 19 up this year and 42 in the next two cycles. You'd like to have your most vulnerable seats up when you're least likely to lose them. The Republicans would win more seats if more Democratic senators were up this year, but they'll likely gain the most seats by having so many Democratic seats up when the field isn't tilted toward them.

So what does this year look like?

The vulnerability number is determined based on PVI, with vulnerabilities of 6-10 proportional to the other party's PVI, while 1-5 were proportional to the party's own PVI.Despite a fairly equal number of seats up, the Democrats have the four most vulnerable seats up this year. On the other hand, each party has four seats up in swing states. The opportunity for Republicans should result in them winning 3-5 seats. Anything more than five will be a great Republican year.

Does that mean the Senate won't flip?

Probably. Republicans need the landscape so slanted that they don't lose swing states, pick up opportunity and swing states along with two seats that are in big Democratic states. That's why a small shift in polls could result in California, Nevada, and Washington could result in Democratic retention.

How does the future look for the two parties?

Tough on Democrats. This year Democrats have 8 vulnerable seats to the Republicans 4. In 2012, they'll have 12 to the Republicans' 3. Democrats took almost all the seats they could in 2006. They'll need a landslide at the polls just to retain them.
Where the Republicans shouldn't do better than win 3-5 seats this year, if that, they should net at least 6 and maybe as many as 10 or 11 in 2012. Thus, we could see the Senate flip to the GOP in 2012, while seeing the House flip back to the Democrats.

And 2014?

It's even worse for the Democrats. Almost every seat in play will be Democratic seats. While 2012 losses could be mitigated by another Obama landslide, Democrats won't have a Presidential race in 2014. The Republicans could easily win 6 seats this year, 7 in 2012, and another 8 in 2014.That'd give them 62 senate seats, a filibuster proof majority. Of course 2016 could be a tough Senate year for the Republicans, based on gains this year, but that's a long time in the future.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Are The Democrats Doing Better?

One thing you'll hear in the media is that "the Republicans have peaked too early." Of course there's only one day that counts, election day. How a party would do before then is speculation and irrelevant. In January some were saying Scott Brown peaked too early when polls showed him ahead a week before election day. Maybe he did peak early. What mattered is that he won.

There are reasons to think Republican momentum has ceased. Rasmussen does the generic ballot every week, and their Republican lead has been cut from 12 to 6 since early September.

Senate polls in California, Washington, Kentucky, and Delaware are all more favorable to the Democrats than they were a few weeks ago.

Since September 10, Democrats have led on roughly half the congressional polls that have been publicized. Many of these polls have been internal or from the DCCC. That may mean that these polls are skewed toward positive Democratic results, but when one party is putting out polls and the other isn't, it usually means that party has something positive to say and the other doesn't. This could mean that Republicans have crested in the polls and things are turning for Democrats.

But it probably doesn't.

While Rasmussen's Republican generic ballot lead has been halved, a 6 point lead is still significant. Every other pollster using "likely voter" has seen an increase for the Republicans in September, including the new CNN/Opinion Research and GWU/Politico/Battleground polls that have come out in the last few days. Ten different pollsters have used "likely voter" this month and they average a Republican lead of 7.3 points. The GOP doesn't need a lead that big to win a lot of seats.

Senate polls in New York, Connecticut, West Virginia, Wisonsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina have all taken a decidedly Republican bounce this month. 538 has Republicans at the highest seat total they've had them all year, 47.6. That's only up half a seat from a month ago, but having 47-48 seats, a pick-up of 6-7, would be a nice haul for the GOP.

While Democrats have been ahead in more than half the polls in the last two weeks or so, 45 of the 52 are in seats currently held by Democrats. When you have 45, winning 28 and losing 24 is still a net loss of 17 seats. Extrapolating those results over all the seats in play, Democrats would lose 44 seats and control of the House. If Republicans are stuck on a 44 seat net, they'll be happy. I've had them at a net +46 since Labor Day. If Republicans don't increase momentum, but do maintain it, they'll have a big day November 2. Even a slight drop off would be fine.

It's interesting, however, if the GOP wins only 4-5 senate seats and 35 House seats that'll be seen as a disappointment. For the first year of the Obama Presidency, people weren't predicting gains that big.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Senator Has No Coat Tails

It's generally accepted conventional wisdom that if your Senate candidate does well, then his or her coat tails will help the people running for Congress in the state. To find out if this was true, I looked at the last two wave mid-term elections. I set aside Presidential elections, because we wouldn't know if it was the Senator or Presidential candidate who was helping, and there is evidence that a President can have coat tails. By using the 1994 and 2006 elections, we'll have two elections which likely will closely resemble this year's election. In 1998 and 2002 not many seats changed hands. So there likely weren't coat tails. I included all the House seats that were believed in play or the elections were close.

The Democrats didn't lose any seats in the 2006 election, but the Republicans did lose four in 1994. So they were included as part of the study.

The two worst success rates for House seats were when the wave party (GOP in 1994 and Dems in 2006) won by between 20-30% and 10% or less. So overall, winning the senate race was the least likely path to win a House seat in play. I think the numbers are so close to each other that we can't say that a senate race helps congressional candidates or hurts them. I'm sure that in some cases the senate race did help them and in some cases it may have hurt. That's certainly arguable, but there's no way of knowing which ones a Senator will impact and which he won't. A big win in Arizona for McCain might not mean any of the three close races there goes Republican, while two New York Senate losses might not prevent the Republicans from picking up congressional seats.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

House Mid-Terms Explained

I’m sure I have some new readers who weren’t at the old site. So I thought I’d provide some House answers.

The President’s party always loses House seats in a mid-term. So they will this year. Right?
Wrong. What you’re doing is substituting an effect (the President’s party losing seats) for a cause (why they’ll lose seats).

Right. Right. Ok, The President’s party loses seats if his approval rating is below 50 or the economy stinks.
That’s sometimes a factor, but it’s not the most common factor.

Ok. Why are the Democrats losing seats this year?
There is currently a median center point of how the parties will divide up the seats. In an average year with no big factors, the breakdown will be no more than 10-12 seats from this number. There is a variance based on retirements, redistricting and other factors. The Democrats are likely way above this median point.

What is this median point?
Between 1944 and 1992 this was 246 Democrats and 189 Republicans. It was within 12 either way for half of the 24 elections. Only once did 3 elections pass without the parties being within 10-12 of these numbers. That was post-Watergate. The seats were within this range after 3 of the next 4 elections.

In 1994 there was a major shift. Many districts that were traditionally Democratic or swing districts became Republican districts. There were a number of reasons for this, but it was mostly due to the southern districts that had voted Republican for President since 1964 finally translated that to the House. Between 1994 and 2004 the split was always within 7 seats of Republicans 228 Democrats 207.

We don’t know the current median. It could still be 228-207, which would mean the Republicans would gain 49 seats net. It’s possible that a new period has started and we don’t know it yet. Based on current polling that median isn’t likely 256-179, the current split. Whatever the current split is, the Republicans are unlikely to overshoot it, since only once have there been three consecutive elections that weren’t close the median. There’s no indication that a new period has started. Since the House went to 435 members, the periods have changed with the Great Depression, the end of World War II, and the 1994 re-alignment.

Does that mean the Republicans are going to take the House?
Yes. In 2008 Barack Obama won 242 congressional districts and John McCain won 193. There were, however, 229 districts where McCain outperformed his average. So it’s likely that the House should average out to being a Republican majority.

Wait a second. Why would you count districts Obama won for McCain?
While 53%-46% is how Barack Obama did, the average congressman isn’t Barack Obama. Scott Brown won 57% of the vote or more in 5 congressional districts. We know that Republicans aren’t going to win 5 districts this year, but all 5 of those candidates should have a better chance than the 2 districts Brown won by small margins.

If we just took the 193 districts that McCain won, however, we find that 46 of them have a Democratic congressman. Of those, 21 flipped to the Democrats in either 2006 or 2008 and another 6 are open seats. In an average year without Obama the Democrats would likely lose many of them. In a Republican year, they’ll lose more.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll get 39 seats. That’s a lot.
True. But with Democrats recently taking McCain districts and the retirements Republicans would’ve taken at least 27-30 seats without the wind at their backs. In this environment the other 9-12 should come.

Republicans lead by an average of 7.2 points on the generic ballot among likely voters. In 2004, Republicans were 3 points better nationally and finished with 232 seats. All indications are that this will be a better year than 2004 for the Republicans.

You never answered the first question about the President losing seats in a mid-term.
The two charts below are how a party did when a new President was elected or was re-elected.

As you can see the President’s party usually either stays within 6 of the average, if the President doesn’t have coat tails, or overachieves by 20 or more seats, if he does. Jimmy Carter actually did exceptionally well. While his party gained only 1 seat, they had a bloated number due to their 1974 Watergate wins. They were still above the number until Ronald Reagan won.

That’s a Presidential election. What about mid-terms?
Since a party often ends up way above the median when they win the Presidency, the mid-terms are a come down.

As you can see most Presidents were way above their median, and were expected to lose seats. Here we can see Eisenhower (1st mid-term) and Carter’s losses actually out performed the average. It’s no coincidence that the worst performer was the Republicans during Watergate. We can also see that one of the big reasons why Clinton didn’t lose seats in 1998 and Bush didn’t in 2002 was that they weren’t burdened with a lot of the other party’s seats to defend.

Republicans did win 54 seats in 1994, but, if we’d known the median, we would’ve expected them to win 51. What we do see here is that based on the usual mid-term performance the Republicans are unlikely to overshoot the median, and, if they do, it won’t be by much. That’s good news for Democrats if the median has them with the majority.

From the re-election chart we can see that if Obama wins re-election, he’s pretty much certain to get the Democrats back to the median if they fall below that.

On the other hand, 2 of the 3 sitting Presidents who lost their Presidency suffered House losses much higher than expected.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Generic Ballot

At first look, it may appear that Republicans have plateaued or are declining. September is down slightly with both Likely voters and registered voters. Throughout the year, however, there have only been 2-4 likely voter polls per month. In September, this jumped to 9. With so many polls saying the same thing, the Republicans +7 in likely voters is the most reliable measure of the year. If on election day Republicans are even 4 or 5 points ahead on the generic ballot they'll likely have a huge win.

Pollster Skew

Since last fall the liberal refrain has been that Rasmussen is really a Republican pollster and that they were lying about polls to help Republicans. The evidence of this was that Scott Rasmussen had once worked for a Republican. Rasmussen was polling "likely voter," while all the other pollsters were polling "registered voter." That accounted for some of the difference. Now that everybody has switched to "likely voter" I decided to check to see how skewed the polls were.

I took any gubernatorial or senate election where two or more pollsters had polls within a week of each other during the month of September. I used August for a few that haven't been polled lately. I then compared the poll results of two pollsters, comparing them in pairs. I then combined them to determine how far apart each pollster was usually from each other. I only used the five most prolific pollsters due to sample size.

These numbers are relative to each other and shouldn't be read as whether any have a Republican or Democratic skew. I present the numbers as how Republican the pollster is, but, if I used Quinnipiac as the floor it'd show how Democratic the pollster is. We don't know which pollster is correct, as we'll only know that when the election comes. You can look at a Survey USA poll and determine how the poll would've come out if PPP had done it.

It turns out that Rasmussen doesn't skew Republican compared to the other polls. Democratic pollster PPP has almost identical results. Sorry, Democrats. Turns out you should've been bashing the others and complimenting Rasmussen. It's shocking to see that Quinnipiac is so far off the others. They don't have a pro-Republican reputation.

In the last few days, Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, and Survey USA have polled the New York Senate-B race. Rasmussen has Gillibrand by 10. Quinnipiac has Gillibrand by 6. Survey USA has Gillibrand by 1. Quinnipiac usually differs by around 6% of Rasmussen. So these results aren't surprising for those two. Survey USA skews a lot more Republican than you'd expect.

So next time you see a poll, decide which pollster you like and then adjust the other numbers toward them.

Why a Mike Castle Run is a Win Win for the GOP

Christine O'Donnell can't win a two way race. The Delaware electorate will be nearly 50% Democratic. Massachusetts is only 37% Democratic. California will be 40%-42% Democratic. While a Republican candidate can win in blue states with independent support, they can't win in states where the electorate is around 50% Democratic without Democratic support. O'Donnell won't get that. She'd need to pretty much win all the Republican and independent votes to win. She's going to lose Republican votes from Castle supporters. Independents are less enamored with her.

Mike Castle has strong Democratic support. In a head to head match-up with Chris Coons, Castle polled at 30% Democratic support, compared to 13% for O'Donnell. Castle is likely to appeal stronger to Coons voters than O'Donnell voters. With the recent primary being so bitter, there's no guarantee Castle voters will back her. Her core conservative supporters won't abandon her. While she probably would top out in the low 40's in a 2-way race, she could get in the mid 30's in a three way contest.

Mike Castle can win. I know some Republicans would rather have Coons than Castle, but this isn't a Charlie Crist or Lisa Murkowski candidacy. Castle has won four gazillion statewide elections. Crist won 3. Murkowski 1. Castle has the advantage of an ugly primary that's recent. Crist Republicans didn't work up animosity against Rubio, so they had time to decide they wanted to vote Republican. This bitter election is so recent and bitter that Castle could hold many of his supporters. Unlike Crist and Murkowski he's done well with Democrats and won independents in the past. He could suck enough votes from either of them for a win. I'm sure conservatives imagine the worst from him, but there's no indication he'd do anything different than he's always done and caucus with the Republicans.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Senate Ratings

Democrats Showing How Stupid They Are

Without the Democrats there'd be no tea party movement. People were angry at Bush and the Republicans and that anger carried over to the Democrats when they did the same things on steroids. Had the Democrats been smart they would've talked to their constituents and attempted to deal with their concerns. Instead the Democrats insulted and berated these constituents again again and again.

Being treated like you're bull dung will motivate you far more than the things you object to. The Democrats seemed to be making a conscious decision to get the tea party people to hate them. As a result, they end up working a lot harder to unseat them. Say what you want about Republicans, but they save their negativity for their congressional opponents. I can't see a benefit toward treating voters this way. Maybe they want a book titled, "How to Create Enemies and Motivate Them to Work Against You."

Prop. 20

PPP polled prop 20, the proposition that takes California's congressional districting out of the legislature's hands and gives it to the same independent commission that's doing legislative redistricting.

Nancy Pelosi will go ballistic when she sees this. Pelosi and Howard Berman spent a lot of time and influence to protect California's Democratic representatives in the last redistricting, at times with very gerrymandered districts. The ironic thing is that I think Democrats will do better with fair redistricting. There are currently 30 districts D +8 or better and 10 districts R +8 or better. The other 13 districts have 10 Republican leaning and 3 Democratic leaning.

If they let some of those D +10-15 districts become D +5-9 a number of the Republican leaning districts would become Democratic leaning. In a bad year that could mean the Democrats would only win 28-30 races but in a normal year they'd probably win 35-37. In a good year they'd get over 40.

The Democrats picked up only 1 of the 20 Republican seats despite huge gains elsewhere. They only got that one because of Richard Pombo's ethical problems. The 3rd, 4th, 44th, and 50th would've gone over in the last election if there were just a few more Democrats in those districts. The 26th, 45th, 46th, and 48th would've been possible too.

Jane Harman won 4 congressional elections in the old 36th, but each time she won by 8.5% or less. In the 4 since she's won by 26% or more each time. They took out Palos Verdes and some other Republican leaning precincts and gave them to Dana Rohrbacher in the 46th. He's two districts away. It's an absurd gerrymander. Harman should win even with Palos Verdes, but Democrats don't want to take the chance.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

They Just Don't Get It

They just don't get it.

Jim Demint didn't get Christine O'Donnell the Delaware Senate Nomination. Neither did Sarah Palin. Or the Tea Party Express. The Republicans in Delaware did. They chose their nominee and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. You don't choose your nominee based on electability. People choose the person who is closest to their views. O'Donnell is almost definitely going to lose. The Republicans in Delaware may regret their choice at that point. Or they might not. She is the person they wanted. If she loses they'll decide whether the choice made sense. Next time maybe they'll nominate the "more electable" candidate. Or not.

What people seem to be missing is that voters want to make their own choice. They don't want to be told this is the person you're voting for because they have an "R" next to their name.

I'm pretty sure that Dr. Coburn and I don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but we do see eye-to-eye on the most important thing:
“I think the Republican Party ought to give Americans what they want — that’s a government that’s efficient, that doesn’t waste money, that doesn’t spend money it doesn’t have on things it doesn’t need."

Jim Demint:
“We had the majority. Folks think we spent too much, we borrowed too much, we grew the government too much. And that’s the question I get all over the country now: If you get the majority again, are you going to do the same thing you did last time?”

How about we actually offer America real small government conservatism and see what they think? If they reject it, then we'll know they don't want it. Unless we offer that, how will we know? If they want a borrow and spend government, they should elect Democrats. There needs to be two parties in this country that offer different things. We don't need two that offer the same thing.

Iim Demint's question is one I've been asking for three years. If we give the Republicans the majority and get the 107-109th congresses again, we should just give congress to the Democrats again. When I sat down with Dennis Prager he told me, "If people don't get the values they expect from the Republicans, they'll elect the non-Republicans. At least maybe they're sincere."

The Ones the GOP Has to Have

Today's PPP poll has Raese up 3 in the West Virginia Senate race. This is significant for a few reasons. First, this is a seat that people thought might be in play, but with popular Governor Joe Manchin running it probably wouldn't. Second, the senator would be seated immediately. That'd give the Republicans an extra vote in a potential lame duck session.

Most importantly though, it's a very valuable seat for the GOP. Any win is a good win, but the best wins are those in Republican districts and states. To some this might seem counterintuitive. After all, this is the year to grab some blue seats. The GOP may never get another opportunity like this. That's exactly why the red seats are more valuable. Most of the blue seats will likely be lost in the next congressional or senate election.

Massachusetts-10 would be a nice win, but it skews Democratic. Republicans wouldn't stand a chance in any year but a big wave year. Add to that Massachusetts will lose a seat in the next redistricting. So it may be get even tougher for a Republican. Republicans certainly won't lose all the gains they'll make in Democratic districts, but they will be far more likely to hold Republican leaning districts than Democratic ones. And the ones a party holds for a long time are more valuable than the ones it holds only one term. The average of McCain won districts the Democrats picked up in 2006-2008 is a toss-up, while the average Obama district is Lean Democrat. That doesn't include Kansas-2, Florida-16, Texas-22, and Louisiana-6, four districts Republicans have already won back.

Of the 48 districts John McCain won that now have a Democrat 47 are considered by at least one forecaster to be in play. The lone exception is the 7th district in Minnesota. There's been no public poll on that district, so it may still come into play.

These seats may skew Republican on a Presidential level, but may have been held by a Democrat for years. In fact, 26 of the 47 are not among those that the Democrats picked up in 2006 or 2008. An incumbent can get into a seat and hold it for years, even if the district shifts its preferences. If you can knock that guy off, you'll likely keep the seat for a long time. If you fail this year, the Democrats will likely continue to hold the seat for years to come. The same holds true for the red state seats Democrats have in the senate. House and Senate seats in West Virginia and Arkansas are must gets for the Republicans.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When Blue Dogs Go Down

I've heard more than progressive say, "You know, I wouldn't mind only having 230 seats, as long as we had 220 good progressives. If the Blue Dogs lost this fall, I won't mind."

That should send chills down the spine of any Blue Dog. Even if progressives are a minority in his district, he can't win without them. Still, I wonder if the Democrats lose 26 net seats, whether it'll be Blue Dogs going down. There is a common assumption that when a moderate in one party is defeated he's replaced by a moderate in the other party. I want to see how likely this is by looking at the make-up of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership to see if the winners are likely to join. There's no way to know for sure, of course, but I can make a good guess based on where the RMSP membership is now. From looking at the districts that at least one forecaster thinks could flip we see that Blue Dog seats are far more likely to go Republican.

For a 26 net seat loss I'm giving the Democrats four wins (DE-AL, IL-10, HI-1, LA-2). These are the only Republican seats that any forecaster even has a toss-up. They are all RMSP members, so the moderate Republicans will take a hit. The new congressmen are likely to be mainstream Democrats. Next I took the 30 seats most likely to switch by combining the ratings from The Crystal Ball, Rothenberg Report, Cook, CQ, and RCP. Then I added in the next 13 that'd put the Democrats in the minority.

It seems the most vulnerable Democrats aren't Blue Dogs at all. There are seats in New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Washington, and Colorado that are currently held by a mainstream Democrat. If Republicans can peel off 30% of the remaining Blue Dogs they'll get bills passed. The next group consists of more Blue Dogs, but the mainstream Dems are at a pretty low number.

Among the first 30, 14 are likely to be replaced by GOP moderates. Even in this scenario, the GOP moderates would outnumber the Democratic ones 53 to 43. The next group would likely have more mainstream Republicans.

This blows out another assumption that people make. A moderate doesn't replace a moderate. In Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, Iowa, and Texas there are 26 Blue Dogs and no RMSP members. In Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Florida, the RMSP outnumbers Blue Dogs 22 to 4. There is overlap in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California. Those would be the only districts I'd assume would swap moderates.

These two scenarios show a bigger Republican win and one where Republicans take every seat that anyone remotely thinks could switch. Blue Dogs drop by the road, but Republican moderates boom. With a 67 seat net win, conservatives would need 43 moderate votes for a majority. Even in a scenario with 289 seats, conservatives would still be 15 shy of a majority.

It's certainly possible that all the mainstream Democratic seats forecasters think will switch won't, but it seems likely that Democratic losses won't just be limited to the Blue Dogs. If the Republicans do get a majority their ranks will swell with more moderates.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Supporting the Party

I think Mike Castle is right on this one. He lost a very bitter primary where Christine O'Donnell made such vicious personal attacks on Castle and his family that he can't support her. I get that. He also won't support the Democrat. He shouldn't. He's a Republican. He should support other Republicans, even if he isn't supporting O'Donnell. Endorsing Glenn Urquhart for his current job would be a start.

What you don't do is what Lisa Murkowski is doing. She lost. She should accept the voters' decision and move on. By running, she's saying she's more important than the party and that she's the only one who can represent Alaska. It's about her, not about Alaska. Arlen Specter thought he was more important than anyone else and irreplaceable. Charlie Crist feels the same way. When you run you accept that you are running on a party's ticket and you have certain responsibilities to the party. This is a two way street.

Delaware Electorate

In Massachusetts Democrats outnumber Republicans 37%-12% with 51% independent/other. For the most part independents are less likely to vote. In 2006 and 2008 Democrats outnumbered Republicans 42%-19% and 43%-17%. While exit polls aren't available for the Brown election it could've been 35%-22%. A candidate could win taking independents 60%-40%.

In Delaware Democrats outnumber Republicans 47%-29%, with only 24% independent. In 2008 the breakdown was 48%-31%-21%. PPP has a 47%-38%-23% party breakdown. If Coons locks up Democrats, O'Donnell would have to get 90% of Republicans and 70% of independents.

RINOs have been told to hit the road, so now only is it doubtful she'll get 90% of Republicans, but many RINOs will stay home. So getting the Republican turn-out will be difficult. Getting 70% of independents is way beyond anything she can hope for.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Republicans Won’t Lose the House in 2012

Democrats have written off the House and are now planning on taking it back in 2012. There is a precedent for this. In the 1946 mid-term the Republican/Democratic make-up of the House changed from 242D/193R to 247R/188D. In 1948 Truman won re-election and reversed the make-up to 263D/172R.

If you don’t look further, this makes sense. There are flaws, however. At the time congressional districts skewed Democratic. In 6 of the previous 7 elections Democrats had at least 242 seats. In every election from 1954 to 1992 Democrats had at least 232 seats. A Republican majority could only happen when Republicans were energized, Democrats dispirited, and independents going Republican.

In 6 of the last 8 elections Republicans have had between 223 and 233 seats. Seats with a Republican PVI outnumber those with a Democratic PVI 234 to 192. The Democrats have only had the majority when the Republicans have been dispirited, the Democrats energized, and independents going heavily Democratic. If the GOP takes the House this year, in 2012, Republicans are likely to be even more energized. The Republican Party could turn independents heavily back to the Democrats. I wouldn’t put it past the GOP to blow it, but Democrats control the White House and probably will hold the Senate. Independents don’t like Obama right now. It seems unlikely they’ll turn that far against the Republicans.

There are 61 R+2 or better Democratically held seats. If these make up the bulk of the Republican wins, they’re unlikely to lose a lot of them again in 2012. The Democrats are so vulnerable this year because they 69 Republican skewing seats to the Republican’s holding only 9 Democratic seats. If Republicans gain only a net in the low 40’s they are likely to still have less Democratic seats than the Democrats have Republican seats.

A more apt comparison would be 1996. Bill Clinton was re-elected that year while Democrats closed a 4.8 million congressional vote gap to actually take a few hundred thousand more votes that year. Yet they only gained 2 net seats, changing a 231-204 minority to a 229-206 minority. Since there are 42 more Republican seats than Democratic seats the Democrats would need a lot to go right to gain the House back.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Tea Party is Now the Establishment

The tea party is now the establishment... and it isn’t working well. The folks who make up the tea party have felt like they were being neglected, ignored, and marginalized. So they embraced candidates who were going up against the “establishment” candidates. And they were vicious in their attacks on the establishment candidates. These campaigns got ugly. Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski, among others, were a bunch of bleeping RINOs! They’re no better than Democrats! They’re gay! They break into houses! This was a search and destroy the enemy/take no prisoners campaign. Get out. Go away. We don’t want you.

That’s not unusual in a political campaign.

Except they didn’t notice they were doing this to Republicans. In their effort to drum all the RINOs out of the Republican Party the tea party is shocked they’ve... drummed all the RINOs out of the Republican Party. Now that they’ve been successful they’re now the establishment. They’re now asking the RINOs to vote for their candidates. And when the RINOs express that they’re not happy about embracing people who treat them as if they’re lower than crap, the tea party people hit them again telling them they’re sore losers and big babies.

And it isn’t just the RINOs they’re going after. Hugh Hewitt, Karl Rove, and Charles Krauthammer are now the enemy. Don’t treat them like crap. As I was writing this I decided to look at a few other websites. Apparently David Frum feels this too. Mike Castle won’t endorse Christine O’Donnell and won’t endorse Chris Coons either. He’s a Democrat. You don’t endorse Democrats. I can’t think of a reason, however, for him to endorse O’Donnell other than loyalty to a party that just told him to go F himself.

The tea party has won. They’re the establishment now. Good luck winning elections without RINOs.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Generic Ballot

One Democratic talking point has been how Republican enthusiasm had peaked and that Democrats were getting more excited for the election. They pointed to Gallup’s congressional ballot tie last week. What they failed to mention was:

This was registered voters, rather than likely voters. It’s the actual voters that count, not the ones registered that don’t.
Gallup’s poll has varied wildly from week to week. Something atypical in generic ballots. This makes their results suspect.
Gallup is the only pollster showing this. Every other pollster has had an equal or higher generic ballot number.

I split out the generic ballots into three, showing one with likely voters, one with registered voters, and one combining the two. One thing the trend lines for registered and likely voters both have in common was a fairly steady ballot through April, an uptick for Democrats in May and June, a significant change to Republicans in July and August, and then a big increase in September.

While a couple of pollsters who measure registered voters and have been more favorable to Democrats have yet to weigh in this month there are more who have favored Republicans who haven’t either. Every pollster doesn’t poll every month, so they might not. (Note: This graph contains generic ballots for 20 pollsters. On average they’ve done 3.8 generic ballot tests over 9 months.) It seems likely September will end up with the same big jump it’s had so far.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Senate Comeback

The Democrats are trailing, often dramatically, in many Senate polls. Democrats are hoping for a reversal between now and election day. Like this year, 2006 and 2008 heavily favored one party. So it’s worth looking at how the elections went from mid-September polling to election day results.

The one caveat here is that the Republicans had a dramatically bad break in late September both years, Mark Foley in 2006 and the meltdown in 2008. These incidents may have made it extremely difficult for the Republicans to come back. Such an incident could happen this year, but since the incidents were unpredictable they could happen to either party.

I’ve excluded any state where one party led by 10% or more. In two instances, Kentucky 2008 and Louisiana 2008 the trailing party closed to a 6% loss, not really very close. That’d mean North Dakota, Indiana, and Arkansas are already gone, while Arizona, Louisiana, and Iowa are definitely out of reach. New Hampshire, with an Ayotte victory, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, and Delaware, with a Castle victory, are on the cusp of being out of reach.

The Democrats fairly easily held the seats they led by 6% or more, with only one being close. They lost all of the Republican seats except for Alaska, where Ted Stevens was convicted right before the election. I don’t think that’ll happen this year. This would put Ohio, Alaska, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania pretty much out of reach. They may be able to hope for one of them, but that’s probably the maximum. The good news for Democrats is that Connecticut is almost certainly out of reach for Republicans at this point.

The Democrats did take four seats where they were trailing by 4% or less and the Republicans took one. It’s likely that all Republican seats are safe now and that the GOP has five pick-ups (North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Delaware, and Pennsylvania) in the bag. Of course, if Castle and/or Ayotte lose on Tuesday that could change. In the event that they don’t, a 48-46 Democratic seat lead seems fairly certain.

That leaves six other Democratic Senate seats. In Wisconsin, California, Colorado, and Illinois the last two polls have favored different candidates. In Washington Dino Rossi has led the last two, while the last four Nevada polls have had Harry Reid leading by 2 points, 1 point, and 2 ties. Even if something unexpected happens, that won’t put them safely in either camp, as Republicans were able to win Tennessee in 2006 and Mississippi in 2008 despite how close they were.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Presidents Losing Seats Mid-term

The biggest reason why a President loses seats at the Mid-term is that he’s not on the ballot. When a candidate wins the Presidency, whether he’s an incumbent or a challenger, he usually has coat tails that sweep congressmen into office. When we look at coat tails we should look at how the President’s party does compared to the average number of seats held during the period.

When Eisenhower was elected in 1952 it was during a period where his party averaged having 199 seats in the House. The Republicans finished with 222, 23 above average. Jimmy Carter only gained 1 seat when he won, but the Democrats were already 27 above their average for this period. His 1 seat gain actually was 28 above the average. So he had the longest coat tails. When the President is re-elected the results are similar.

A President is just as likely to have long coat tails as he is to have no coat tails. There’s not a lot in between. I don’t include how Barack Obama did compared to what would be expected since the average Democratic number for this era is unknown now. I expect that when the average for this era is set, Obama’s coat tails will be as long any President.

In a mid-term year, a President isn’t running. While President Obama bragged that the difference this year is “you have me,” we can look at the mid-terms and see that the President’s party does twice as well as expected. in a Presidential year than in a mid-term year.

While the press talks about how the President’s party loses seats, the reason for that is that the President usually enters the mid-terms with more seats than his party usually has during this period. He has seats that the other party usually wins. Without his name on the ballot, the party loses those seats and reverts close to the number of seats they usually have, sometimes a little above that and sometimes a little below that. A President loses mid-term seats because he usually has a lot of seats where the voters usually vote for the other party.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Democrats Better Hope Election Isn’t Like 1982

There is a genuine misunderstanding of how congressional elections work among a lot of people who are paid a lot of money to understand them. Jim Kessler is Vice President for policy at Third Way. It’s a progressive “think” tank. He’s comparing the Democrats current situation with Reagan and the Republicans in 1982. Reagan held all the Republican Senate seats and lost only 26 House seats. Surely, Obama would take that result.

He would, if that were actually the result of that election.

The House
When discussing party gains and losses, people think it’s like going to Vegas. Start out with $1,000. Win some. Lose some. If you end up with a $1,000 you’re doing fine. In the House the Democrats aren’t starting with 255 seats. They’re starting with 0, same as the Republicans. They have to compete with the GOP for all 435 congressional districts and don’t start with a bankroll of 100 seats.

The assumption that’s made by counting the Democrats as having 255 seats is that it’s their seat to lose. There are 234 Republican skewing districts and 192 Democratic districts based on Cook PVI. That means that in a year with equal enthusiasm and an equal split of independents the Republicans will win 234 seats and some of the 9 even seats. If Democratic enthusiasm is up, you can add 2-3 points to their candidate. If Republican enthusiasm is down, you can add another 2-3 points. If the Democrat beats the Republican by 9 points with independents, you can add another 3 points.

There are, of course, candidates who transcend PVI and election swing. John Kerry and Barack Obama got roughly the same percentage of votes in MA-2, 3, 5, 6, and 10. Martha Coakley did 15-17 points worse than them in the districts. Yet this fall, the Democrats in each district will vary widely in their performances. Individual congressmen and aspects of a race can change a Republican PVI into a Democratic seat.

In 2004, Republicans held a 38-7 lead among R +1- R +4 districts. By 2008 Democrats actually had them beat 28-17 in those districts. High Democratic enthusiasm, low Republican enthusiasm, and an edge with independents enabled the Democrats to flip 21 of these seats. While these were Republican seats in the previous congresses, on election day they were no longer Republican seats. The enthusiasm/independent factors turned out an electorate that favored the Democrats. Just because A Democrat won them the last time doesn’t make them Democratic seats. Republican going from low enthusiasm to average enthusiasm or a slight skew in independents likely turns the seat back. In anything less than perfect conditions, the Democrat is the underdog even if he’s an incumbent.

In 1982 things were different. Most of the south went Democratic, regardless of the electorate’s Presidential preference. Between 1938 and 1994 the Democrats averaged 254 seats and the median was 258. In a Republican year they’d still lead 234-201 and in a Democratic one 283-152. In an average year the Democrats would have 242-262 seats.

After the Republicans picked up 35 seats in 1980, the breakdown was Democrats 242/Republicans 193. Had Congress gone back to equilibrium, the Democrats would’ve picked up 12-16 seats. Instead they got 27. They ended up with 269 seats, the 6th best showing for Democrats in this period. Exclude the Watergate years it was 3rd best.

Between 1994 and 2006 the Democrats averaged 207 seats. If you add in 2006 and 2008, their average jumps to 216. If the Republicans do 14 districts better than average, then they’ll lead anywhere from 233-202 to 242-193. That’s a net loss of 53-62 seats, above what even the most optimistic Republican is forecasting.

The one things that could save the Democrats is that 2008 showed the middle has shifted back to close to the 254-258 that it was in the 1938-1994 period. All the polling and Republican wins in places like the Massachusetts and New Jersey suggest that it hasn’t. All indications are that the Republicans should exceed whatever the new median is. The Democrats hope it isn’t like 1982.

The House is a lost cause for the Democrats. I’d put it at 85% that the Republicans will win control of it and if it’s as bad as 1982, they could be at their lowest level since 1946.

Like the House, the Senate can be swayed by environment, but unlike the House you’re not starting 0-0. So, while the Republicans led 54-45 in seats in 1982, they only had 13 up for election, compared to 19 Democratic. So they went in with a 41-26 lead.

To look at the 13 Republican seats that were up, you have to the previous Class I Senate election in 1976. This was the post-Watergate and the Republicans lost 7 of the 11 seats they had, but picked up 7 of the 21 Democratic seats. Utah and Wyoming were two pick-ups. Neither state has elected a Democrat since then. Among the other victors were Richard Lugar, John Danforth, John Heinz, Lowell Weicker, William Roth, and John Chafee, a who’s who among major Republican senators. The Republicans won 11 of their 13 seats, but even with the who’s who running no Republican Senate candidate, incumbent or challenger, got 60% of the vote. The Democrats exceeded 60% in 13 of their 20 wins.

If there’s a major imbalance in seats up for election, the party with significantly less seats retains all or almost all of them. The Republican 85% winning percentage was actually below normal for a party with 13 seats or fewer. The Democrats, on the other hand, have 19 seats up for election this year. The 1982 Republicans had 2 open seats and 11 incumbents. The 2010 Democrats have 7 open seats and 12 incumbents. The additional 6 seats, and 5 open ones, make the Democrats far more likely for losses than the Republicans in 1982.

Reagan got lucky that he had such strong candidates as Republicans went 9-2 in races decided by 8 points or less. If Obama were to get so lucky, he’d keep the losses to 3-5. Yet he’s starting with only 40 seats, less than Reagan’s 41. The ball could, conceivably, bounce his way in the senate. I could easily foresee a Democratic 53-47 or 54-46 advantage being as likely as 50-50 or Republicans at 51-49.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How Voter Composition Sets An Election

I’ve talked about the three factors which influence an election, Democratic turn-out, Republican turn-out, and independent voting. These days most people vote for their party, so in most districts appealing to the opposite party is unlikely. For an example, let’s take Arizona’s 5th district.

The voter composition and voting percentages are estimated based on the year’s turn-out and voter preference. The overall vote total is actual. Heyworth uses the district’s registration advantage to his advantage and is able to win by 6 poins without taking independents.

Low Republican turn-out, high Democratic turn-out, and the Democratic edge on independents dooms Heyworth by 4 points in 2006.

In 2008, the turn-out is even more favorable to Democrats and they kill with independents. Now, what’ll happen this year?

In the first scenario, all the factors favor Schweikert. In the second, there's good turn-out with both and the independents are split. If it’s a Republican leaning district, it’ll be difficult for the Democrats to retain it even if their voters becomes enthusiastic AND they split independents.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Congressional Make-up by PVI

Based on current PVI, the House had this composition after the 2004 election:

Republican leaning districts outnumber Democratic ones 234-192, even though the average is 50%. This is because of the high concentration of Democrats in Democratic districts. There are 52 PVI 20+ districts vs. 21 Republican.

This looks like a fairly expected seat skew. Strangely, Democrats were better at getting dark red seats, but Republican had an advantage when it came to the swing districts. Now, here’s the current make-up:

Democrats took many of their own seats Republicans held but also greatly increased light red/red districts. This is only sustainable with high Democratic turn-out, low Republican turn-out, and indie advantage. If Republicans take back their own districts and take Democratic districts the way the Democrats did in 2006 and 2008, Republicans would pick up 98 seats:

Unlikely? Sure. But, if things are as bad for Democrats as it was for Republicans in 2006 and 2008, this is what’ll happen.