Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hints about California Congressional Decisions

The Inland Valley Bulletin has an article today that looks at the San Bernardino County congressional races. There are some interesting take-aways.

1. The San Bernardino Republican Party is talking to both David Dreier and Jerry Lewis about running in the safe 8th district. There's been no indication Dreier is considering the district.

2. Dreier isn't mentioned for the 31st, even though it has more of his territory than Lewis'

3. The 3 people mentioned for the Democrats in CA-31 have all recently lost races. Actually they've lost them fairly badly.

a. Warner lost to Dreier in the San Bernardino section of the current CA-26 53%-36% in 2010 and 52%-40% in 2008, the most Democratic year you're going to get.

b. Wickman lost the assembly race 58%-42%.

d. Ramirez-Dean finished third in the superintendent of San Bernardino County Schools with 17%. The other two candidates had 61% and 22%.

The 31st may have a Democratic lean, but without a good Democratic candidate they won't win it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

8 Seats? Really?

Aaron Blake at The Fix is analyzing the congressional races. Some of his analysis is good and some of it is coming from a horse's posterior. This is my favorite.

We could see the results spanning from a total wash to Democrats gaining eight seats.

Every single prognosticator, including the most pessimistic ones, has the Republicans with at least 12 safe seats. Since they have 19 now, they'd lose 7 if the ceiling collapsed in a Democratic wave. Not 8. The only two districts he might think Democrats can win are CA-25 and CA-49. Republicans have a decent size registration advantage in both seats, while Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina blew their opponents out in these districts. Heck, Mimi Walters had the 2nd worst Republican statewide performance in 20 years and won them by 10 and 3. If Democrats are winning districts like that, it's a huge Democratic wave where they're gaining at least 80 seats.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gallegly v. McKeon

Knock me over with a feather and call me Shirley. I didn't see this one coming. I assumed that Congressman Gallegly would run in the new CA-26 or retire. I didn't see him challenging Buck McKeon. Member vs. member races in the same party can get ugly and they don't get the party any additional seats.

The district was won decisively by Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, so it's Safe Republican, something that can't be said about either man's current district. So there is a draw to run here. Gallegly has long roots in Simi Valley and likely would only want to represent the people he's known for years and year and not move. Yet Gallegly's contemplated retirement before. If he beats McKeon, will he do so again in 2014 or 2016?

Thee's no way both will make it to November. It's a safe district for the GOP, but there are enough Democratic votes where both Republicans can't beat a Democrat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Referendum on the U.S. Congressional District Redistricting Plan

It got no play with the Senate map referendum turned in but the date for the Congressional maps passed Sunday. I can't find anything indicating anyone turned in anything, but it's safe to assume this is dead.

Rep. Dreier promised us that these weren't the final congressional lines. His only avenue left is the Federal lawsuit. If I'm not mistaken, the only jurisdiction the Feds have is through the VRA. The state has jurisdiction on these maps and that lawsuit was dismissed.

At some point, congressmen Gallegly, Dreier, and Lewis are going to have commit to run somewhere.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Relative Strength of Congressional Incumbents

How applicable are Obama-McCain numbers to local congressional races? I compared how Obama did in each congressional district to how the incumbent Democrat did and McCain to how the incumbent Republican did. For open seat races, I compared the Democrat to Obama.

I excluded districts where a candidate ran unopposed and those that were significantly one-sided either way. The incumbent will win these races whether he performs above or below the Presidential candidate.

Incumbents average a lot better than their Presidential candidate. A rule of thumb is that incumbency is worth 3 points, but these numbers suggest it may be larger. The Democrats had a higher average, but this may be explained by the quality of Democratic challengers vs. Republican challengers. In some cases Republicans barely contested the seat. There were also a number of Democrats in southern legacy districts who continued winning even as their district started voting Republican at a Presidential level. Some of these congressmen didn’t survive the 2010 Republican onslaught, while others are retiring this year. You can see this in the list of Democrats who did the best compared to Obama. Many who did the worst compared to Obama also lost in 2010.

The Republican performances weren’t nearly as strong as the Democratic ones. While fewer Republicans who had strong performances will run in 2012, there are also several Republicans who ran further behind McCain than the Democrats ran behind Obama.

While there are several factors into how an incumbent performs, including the quality of the challenger, incumbents in a number of states performed similarly. I’ve highlighted those where one party’s incumbents did significantly better compared to Obama than Republican ones did compared to McCain. And vice-versa. I’ve highlighted those in yellow.

There were ten states where the Democratic incumbents ran significantly more ahead of Obama than the Republican incumbents did ahead of McCain. Of these, however, six are southern states where Democratic congressmen still manage to hold districts that vote Republicans on the Presidential level.

That’d explain the relative Democratic strength and Republican weakness in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Keep this in mind when anticipating whether the GOP can pick up districts in these states. Fortunately, Republicans picked up a number of them in 2010. In 2012, North Carolina won’t be as easy as some people think it will.

It’s not surprising that Arizona Democrats ran far ahead of Obama, while Republican incumbents didn’t run far ahead of John McCain.
Knowing this, Democratic congressmen in them will once again be difficult to defeat in each of them.

The weak performance of Colorado Republicans is worrisome since the GOP has several potentially vulnerable incumbents. I’m surprised at the incumbents’ relative strength compared to Obama in Indiana, Minnesota, and Missouri, since Obama did very well in each of those states. Ohio Democratic incumbents did well enough to outweigh Dennis Kucinich, who has trouble appealing to anyone outside his base. Put Kucinich in anything close to an even district and he’ll lose.

The good news on the Republican side is the party’s strength, and Democratic weaknesses, in Iowa. There is a lot of opportunity there, especially if Obama is lackluster. California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania all have vulnerable Republicans. Fortunately, Republicans have run very strong in these states.

On the other hand, low R+ PVIs in Texas could result in losses. If a court draws the map, Republicans there might be in trouble.

There were other states where neither Republicans or Democrats didn't have two incumbents. That makes any relative comparison of the two parties difficult, although one can see why Democrats lost both New Hampshire districts in 2010.

Incumbents are difficult to beat in a non-wave year. Most will be tough to beat, but those that aren't as strong will be vulnerable.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ohio Election Day

Somehow I'm still amazed how positive Democratic news is reported and positive Republican news isn't. I know. I know. I'm just being silly. Lose in the midst of the labor union win over the citizens of Ohio was that Ohio voters rejected the individual mandate by a greater margin. It's understandable if you didn't hear that because it gets less than half as many linked news articles. Most of them are conservative media like Newsmax.

If we look at the union win only one might say that Democrats are on the way back. If we look at the two votes together we wouldn't draw that conclusion. The unions in Ohio were able to frame the issue as an effort to destroy the working man and ensure that fires wouldn't be put out.

Who wants to be against that?

Of course that doesn't mean they'll vote Democratic in 2012. The public employee unions aren't running for President, Barack Obama is. You need to make a leap from "I think unions should have collective bargaining" to "I'm voting for a Democrat."

I'd embed a :30 issue 3 ad, but I haven't been able to find one on Youtube. I don't think they people supporting this one spent nearly the same money on it. And yet they got more votes. The individual mandate is tied directly to Barack Obama. The health insurance bill may even by regarded as his signature issue. And voters don't like it. I don't think Obama will win Ohio if he talks about the individual mandate. I'd guess that no Democratic candidates will talk about it either. Sherrod Brown, a strong supporter of Obamacare, may have trouble avoiding it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Ohio Conundrum

Republicans in Ohio created an ambitious congressional redistricting map, one that would likely net them 12 seats to the Democrats' 4.

One problem. Democrats can get the map suspended if they get enough signatures for a referendum. Since they managed to get three times the necessary number to challenge SB5, this seems likely.

Realizing the difference between their map and a court drawn map would likely be vast, Republicans decided to negotiate with Democrats. Those negotiations fell apart. Now Republicans are left with a choice. How much to offer the Democrats. The good news is that even in a court drawn map three competitive seats look to be safe Republican.

The bad news can be seen below. These are the percentage of the vote Barack Obama got in each district. The first line indicates where they're at now. The second is what they passed. The third is the map from last week. And the last column is a court drawn map.

They were able to change OH-1 significantly, while not really impacting the remaining districts. Keep in mind they eliminated one Republican and two Democratic seats, and then put a new Democratic seat in Columbus. Hence the safer seats above.

The offer made OH-1, Cincinnati, much more competitive and put the Dayton district in play. The concern, of course, is what would happen to several other districts. Three Cleveland area Republican seats could go from 47-51% Obama to 52-56% Obama. And then there's the possibility a Toledo area seat might be drawn competitive.

The three big concerns are OH-4, OH-7, and OH-16. How much more should they offer? I'd put the line at making OH-10 and either OH-7 or OH-16 more competitive. You don't want to give up too much, because at that point you can roll the dice with the courts.

Friday, November 4, 2011

David Dreier

“There’s a new federal court case just filed this week. And that will play a big role in making the determination, won’t it? It depends on the lines.”

As I speculated Congressman Dreier earlier is under the assumption that somehow the congressional lines will be overturned and he'll get a wonderful district just tailored for him. He's probably one of the few who think that the lawsuit has a chance at succeeding, it doesn't, and his optimism that new lines are going to be great for him also isn't shared by many. The lawsuit asks the court to draw the lines and I see no reason why the court will draw Dreier better lines. He may operating under the idea that he only wants to run in a district with San Dimas. Since he can't win the district San Dimas is currently in, it can't get worse.

He could win the 31st district, however, and no Republican, or Democrat for that matter, is currently running there. It isn't drawn to favor a Republican, but it's drawn so that a good Republican candidate can win. Many Democrats are upset at that. One of the lawsuits sought to invalidate the district and move some Hispanics from the neighboring 35th in. That'd mean Republicans wouldn't be able to win either the 31st and 35th. Be careful what you wish for, because it can be worse.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beating Feinstein

I have this theory, one I’ve mentioned before, that in the right circumstances with the right Democratic moderate, we could knock off a liberal heavyweight. The circumstances are right to knock off Dianne Feinstein. The man to do it is retiring Blue Dog congressman Dennis Cardoza. Cardoza is high profile enough to have strong crossover appeal and there is no real Republican candidate in the field.
Here’s how it’d happen:

In statewide elections California votes around 54% Democratic/39% Republican state with the rest going to minor parties like the Libertarians or Greens. This isn’t an electorate of 53% Democrats and 39% Republicans, but one where Republicans, Democrats, independents, and minor party voters vote 53% for the Democrat and 39% for the Republican.

Let’s assume we have Feinstein, Cardoza, and a low profile Republican in the race. If Cardoza can get 1/3 of the Republican vote and 1/3 of the Democratic vote, we’d end up with:

Feinstein 36%
Cardoza 31%
Republican 26%
Others 7%

Of course this isn’t a slam dunk. It requires a strong enough appeal among Democrats to give 1/3 of their vote to someone other than Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is an established, well-liked senator, the type that would get 85-90% in past Democratic primaries. Cardoza would have to push hard to the moderate wing of the Democratic party, especially Hispanics and those from the Central Valley.

Harder than that is convincing 1/3 of Republicans to vote for someone who is going to vote Harry Reid majority leader, not Mitch McConnell. People who vote for a party will cast their vote for their party’s nominee even if that person has no shot. If some Republican leaders encouraged votes for Cardoza instead of the Republicans on the ballot you risk the backlash from Democrats that Cardoza is a closet Republican.

If the fall election is Feinstein vs. Cardoza, Cardoza’s path to victory is much clearer. Without a Republican nominee, Cardoza can pull 90% of the Republican vote (38% of 42%) and only 25% of the Democratic vote ((14.5% of 58%) and end up with a 52.5%-47.5% victory. No matter how much money she spends Feinstein will have a lot of trouble garnering much of the Republican leaning vote. So it’d come down to Cardoza getting a small, but not insignificant share of the Democratic vote.

Of course Cardoza is unlikely to run and Republicans may eventually get a strong enough candidate that Cardoza siphoning off one third of the vote won’t happen. I'd like to see if my theory could happen.