Tuesday, June 21, 2016

CA-49: Why Darrell Issa losing would mean Democrats win of over 300 seats

One of the more surprising primary results was how well Doug Applegate, an unknown Democrat, did against Darrell Issa, a long time Republican congressman who has never had tough elections. As of now Issa leads Applegate 51.5%-45.1%, a 6.4% margin. That’s up from the 5.9% margin it was on election night. There are few ballots left to count, so it’s not likely to change.

In 2012 Issa beat the Democrat in the primary by 30 points and won the general election by 16. In 2014 he beat the two Democrats by 24 points and won the general election by 20 points. (You may hear Issa won the primary by 34 points, but that only takes the votes by one Democrat and doesn’t use all Democratic votes.) So the theory goes that if Issa wins the primary this year by 6 points, his opponent will close the gap just as Democrats have done in the past.

Sensing that Issa is weak the DCCC commissioned a survey that shows a tie between the two candidates.

So is Issa in trouble? Let’s take a deeper look.

In the 2012 primary Democratic presidential candidates got 37% of the two party vote and 33% of the two party congressional vote. That’s not unusual, as incumbents like Issa generally do better than their presidential candidate. Jerry Tetalman, the Democrat, got 35,816 votes and the Democratic presidential candidates got 35,688.

Republican presidential candidates got 61,289 and Issa got 71,329. Issa got many of the votes from NPP/third party voters who didn’t vote in a Presidential primary.

This year things were very different. Democratic presidential candidates got 55% of the two party vote but Applegate lagged further than Tetalman and only got 47% of the two party congressional vote. In raw numbers Applegate got 69,218 congressional election votes, while Democratic presidential candidates got 80,669. Issa got 79,050, while Republican Presidential candidates got 66,528.

While Tetalman got 100% of the Democratic presidential vote, Applegate got only 86% of the Democratic vote this year. Issa got 116% of the Republican presidential vote in 2012, but got 119% this year. Based on the electorates they were presented with, Tetalman outperformed Applegate, even though it appears to be the other way around.

In 2012, Democrats got 37% of the two party Presidential primary vote and Barack Obama got 47% in the general election. Thus, Tetalman’s primary to general election improvement. That made the district R+5. For Applegate to win he’d likely need Clinton to win the district by 16 points. If Clinton is winning R+5 districts by 16 points then Democrats are winning over 300 congressional seats this year. We’d be talking about an epic blowout that’d make 2008 look like a Republican win. The experts are talking about Democrats winning 15 seats on the high end, not 115.

If Issa loses it’s because of the most massive wave any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Anyone get a feeling like that’s happening?
In fundraising Applegate raised $53,445 and spent $39,636 in the primary. He had $13,809 cash on hand and $25,068 in debt. He's done absolutely nothing to help himself. To compete in a congressional race a candidate needs to raise at least $500k, but probably more like $1.5 million. Applegate has shown no ability to raise anything. So he'll need Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Nancy Pelosi to implore all their supporters to give him money.

Issa has $3,772,228 cash on hand. Issa is the wealthiest congressman, but it doesn't come from his pocket. He's a pretty good fundraiser and never spends much money on his campaigns. He started the cycle with $3,750,024 in the bank, pretty much what he has now. That's more than any candidate should need, but I'd imagine he'll start fundraising. And if he felt he needed a little more I'm sure he'd kick in a few million more.

So not only would Applegate need an electorate he'll never get but he'd need Issa to not try to win. I know that people have it in their heads that Democrats do better, sometimes much better, in the general election than the primary. Even if California has a more Democratic electorate than 2012 Republicans should do significantly better than they did in this year's primary. People think that a Republican winning by 6% is in trouble, but it may be the Democrats who win by less than 10% who are in trouble.

Monday, June 20, 2016

CA Primary: Final Democratic Vote Totals

There are only 400,000 VBM ballots left to be counted in the California primary. There are another 600,000 provisionals/other. People vote provisionally on election day if they are VBM and haven't presented a ballot or if they aren't on the rolls at their polling place. In some cases they've already voted. In others they aren't a legal voter at that precinct. So some of these ballots won't be valid. Roughly 60% of the ballots so far have had votes for Democrats for President. So I’m guessing there are 530,000 Democratic ballots left. If Sanders wins those 51.6%-47.7%, roughly what he's winning the vote by the last few days. He’ll gain 21,000 votes. Unfortunately, he's 460,000 votes behind. So the final margin should drop to roughly 8.5%. That's better than on election night, or now, but won't make the election close. My final prediction before election night was Clinton by 6%, but I initially thought she'd win by double digits.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Challenging California Primary Conventional Wisdom

When top two came about in 2012 many people didn't know what to expect. Some of us made our predictions, but no one knew for sure. After two primaries and general elections people think they know. I think they may be wrong again.

The conventional wisdom is that the June primary is far more Republican than November general election. This seemed to take some people by surprise in 2012 but those that were taken by surprise thought they learned that any district that a Republican won by 10% or less was in play and any Republican who lost didn't stand a chance. But then in 2014 a bunch of Republicans put huge scares into Democrats and a few even improved on primary performance. A Republican assembly candidate even won a district that she got 36% of the primary vote.

Things may have changed. The VBM ballots came in more heavily for Democrats than they ever did in November. The VBM return actually closely reflected the final 2012 overall party distribution. Could this be the new normal? Some might think so, especially with the Democratic registration surge. I'm skeptical. This election results were way beyond a voter surge. In a normal primary I'd expect 55-60% of the electorate in a Democratic Presidential primary. This one had 69%. Some of that 69% were NPP voters who lean Republican down ballot, but even then, Democrats won the congressional vote 64%-36%. In the 2012 general election there were 56 Democrats and 47 Republicans running due to a bunch of Democrat-Democrat top two face offs. In that election Democrats won 62%-38%. So even with an improvement over 2012 it's hard to imagine Democrats doing any better than winning 64% of the congressional vote. I can't see Democrats doing better in November than they did in this election and I'd guess it'll be worse.

Some people have speculated that Donald Trump will decrease Republican turnout. It's possible but there's no evidence at this point. They've also said that Trump is going to increase Latino turnout. There was no indication it did increase with this primary.

So how much more Republican will the results go? The low end is that the results won't go more Republican. The high end is that you can cut off 6-8 points from any margin.

In the congressional races people are already proclaiming Darrell Issa is in trouble in CA-49. I'm skeptical. Issa's victory margin was 5.9% on election night and it's already gone up to 6.1%. He won in 2012 by 16.4% and in 2014 by 20.4%. His opponent this time is Doug Applegate. Applegate spent all of $39,636 before the primary and had $13,809 in his bank account two weeks before. Issa had $3.8 million in his campaign account. Applegate isn't likely to win more votes by himself. If he does manage to raise any money, Issa can drown him out. I don't see the race being close in November.

Three incumbent Republicans, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Steve Knight, were thought to be in trouble, but Republicans beat Democrats in their districts by 16%, 16%, and 13%. Only Denham's opponent has raised money and Denham has 6 times the COH the Democrat does. None of them appear to be in trouble.

Are any Democrats in trouble? Democrats won CA-7 by 6 points, CA-16 by 8, CA-24 by 7, and CA-31 by 7. All of those are within the Republican range I laid out above. CA-7 was a nail biter for Ami Bera in 2014 and his opponent, Scott Jones, is a decent candidate. Jones could make it close but Bera is only vulnerable if the scandal involving his father touches him. His father has already confessed. There appears to be no connection to Bera, but this is politics. We're already in the mud. We can't say definitively the scandal won't touch Bera. Even if Bera didn't act criminally, the slightest doubt in people's minds could tip the scales to Jones. Even unfounded rumors have sunk candidates before.

Jim Costa in CA-16 probably isn't in danger but his opponent, Johnny Tacherra is the same one that finished less than 2 points behind him in 2014. Pete Aguilar faces a rematch with Paul Chabot in CA-31. Like Costa, Aguilar had a close call in 2014. CA-24 is an open seat. Democrat Salud Carbajal was strong in the primary but open seats in swing districts aren't as secure as districts with incumbents.

As of now, I wouldn't bet on competitive congressional races. But we're still five months from the November election.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

California Primary Results: Turnout

Turnout, as expected, was big. There have already been 5.9 million ballots counted and there could be another million left to count. The 2012 primary only had 5.3 million voters. The 2008 primary had 9.1 million but it was early in the process and both parties had competitive primaries. People were lamenting low turnout in 2014 and trying to come up with solutions for how to increase it. Turns out that the crazy idea of having candidates people care about on the ballot is all you need.

As I also expected the turnout was heavily Democratic. The two party Presidential primary vote was 69% Democratic and 31% Republican. The two party open primary senate vote was 70% Democratic and 30% Republican. The best the Democrats have ever done in a Presidential election is 62% of the two party vote. Barack Obama got that in 2012. While we expected the primary to be more Democratic based on new registrations it shouldn't have been this Democratic. Considering Mrs. Clinton doesn't have nearly the appeal that the President does I'd normally think she wouldn't do as well as he did. But these additional Democrats could get her to 62%. If everything breaks right for Hillary Clinton I can't see her getting more than 64% of the two party vote. That'd be a record.

We'd be entering unexplored territory at 64%/36%. so 69%/31% or 70%/30% is really unexplored. I'd be shocked if Republicans don't do better in November, possibly quite a few points better.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

California VBM Exit Poll Analysis

I looked over the California VBM exit polls and they appear to show some serious danger for Republicans. The GOP is trailing in 7 assembly and 2 senate seats the party currently holds. Democrats haven't mounted a serious challenge in 5 of those assembly seats and neither senate seat in previous elections. In addition there are another 3 assembly seats and 3 congressional seats that have close exit polls. Strangely, the assembly seat the Republicans figured to lose, AD-16, is strong for the GOP in the exit poll. The three congressional districts that are considered endangered, CA-10, 21, and 25, show Republican landslides.

One reason to doubt these numbers, however, is that many of these districts that look bad for the GOP are in Orange County. That isn't shown in the BVM returns. In the 2014 primary Orange County VBM returns were R+18. They are R+10 here. While that looks like a big change, it's actually the average change for the state. Since the exit polls aren't showing disaster elsewhere for the GOP, just the party doing a bit worse, it's possible there's a glitch in the OC numbers.

Take Darrell Issa's CA-49, for example. VBMs were R+17 two years ago and Issa won the primary by 24% over the two Democrats combined. This year they are R+8. I'd expect a 9 point drop and Issa to be 15 points ahead. Instead he's up by 0.3%. I find it hard to believe that Jeff Denham is coasting to an 18 point win, but Issa is running even. Yes, I'm skeptical but the results will tell us whether that skepticism is warranted. That's what makes it fun.

California VBM Exit Polls

So far there have been 3.1 million VBM (Vote By Mail) ballots returned for the California primary. While this is almost all of the VBM ballots that'll arrive in the mail before election day, there'll be more VBM ballots turned by hand on election day. This year any ballot postmarked June 7 or earlier that arrives at a county election office by Friday, June 10 will be counted. So more VBM ballots will be added. The record in the primary is 3.8 million VBM ballots. This'll be surpassed this year.

Capital Weekly has upped their exit poll to 16,281 online responses. As I mentioned earlier this is a size that should be representative of those returning ballots. Usually the VBM ballots turned in before election day are older and more Republican than election day votes. This year, however, the VBM votes have been more Democratic than usual. This means that either the vote this year will be really Democratic or that there won't be as much of a discrepancy between VBM and election day.

Democratic Presidential primary
US Congress
State Senate
State Assembly

Monday, June 6, 2016

CA Primary: Exit polls say Clinton by 12

Capitol Weekly has done an "exit" poll of VBM voters. Check out the map and see where each candidate has their strength. Hillary Clinton is winning urban areas in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego, while Bernie Sanders is stronger in rural areas. Overall, Hillary Clinton leads by 12 points. If VBM voting is 65% of all ballots, Bernie Sanders would need to win on election day by 23% to win the primary. That's highly unlikely. I stand by my prediction of Clinton by 6%. If anything I think that's low and it could be 8-9%.

Friday, June 3, 2016

CA-Sen: Kamala Harris up big in VBM exit poll

Capitol Weekly has done a California Senate Exit Poll of Absentee Votes Cast by emailing people who have voted. (Many people give an email address when they register.) There's no indication that the poll is representative of everyone who has voted but when you have 15,407 respondents you're going to be fairly representative. While the VBM voter tends to be older than election day voters I'm not sure that favors anyone.

Kamala Harris is killing it with 53% of the vote. That's surprisingly good. Most polling suggests she'll finish somewhere in the high 30's. Loretta Sanchez is in 2nd with 14%, leading Def Sundheim with 8%. If this is the true VBM vote, I don't see Sundheim picking up enough points to finish second.

There is reason to question the results. Democrats are leading Republicans 69%-26% in the poll. In previous statewide top two primaries Republicans have only had less than 40% in one race, the 2014 Secretary of State race where a long time Republican ran as an NPP. Even if his votes aren't counted as Republican, Republican candidates got 36% in that one. VBM this year is 49%D/34% R. It was 44%D/37% R in 2014. So even if there is a drop off in the Republican vote I wouldn't expect it to be below the VBM return percentage. If the vote were actually 59% for the Democrats and 36% for the Republicans it's possible Sundheim finishes top two.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Field Poll Also Clinton by 2

The well-respected California Field Poll is out and they too have Hillary Clinton by 2% in the California Democratic primary. Based on this survey I'm lowering my estimate to Hillary Clinton winning by 6%, 53%-47%. Yes, I'm backtracking my double digit win prediction. That I made... um... yesterday. I still predict Clinton winning bigger than the polls say.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Don't Be Fooled, Clinton Wins Big

I'm going out on a limb loyal readers. If you've read this blog for a while you know that I don't support either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. (I don't support Donald Trump either, but that's irrelevant.) So know that I have no dog in the fight when I tell you the polls are wrong. Even if I cared who wins, I write this blog to be as objective as I can.

There's an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out. It shows a 2 point race. The NBC News poll doesn't say what percentage of the Democratic primary electorate is Democrats and what percent is NPP voters. I suspect they are overestimating the NPP voters. Sanders does very well with unaffiliated voters but Clinton tends to dominate with Democrats. Only 17% of the voters so far are NPP/other, down from 20% two years ago. Only 14% of NPP vote by mail voters requested a Democratic ballot. If only 14% of that 17% turn in ballots with Democratic Presidential votes, the vote by mail electorate will be 95% Democratic/5% NPP for the Presidential primary.

It should be better for election day voting because NPP voters will be able to request a ballot in person. I expect election day to be closer to 70-75% Democratic/25-30% NPP. That might not help a lot, because in 2014 VBM was 69% of all ballots. The percentage of VBM voters has been increasing with every election and VBM returns are brisk. The best case for sanders is that the overall ballots are 88% Democratic/12% NPP. I expect it'll be 90% Democratic/10% NPP.

That split should cause Sanders to lose by at least 10 points, but probably at least 15. The Sanders' supporters will claim Clinton cheated because the results won't match the polls. Add to that, Sanders supporters lost their lawsuit today to change registration rules. Bernie will have to live with this electorate. And that should be a disaster for Sanders.