Monday, August 22, 2016

What is Loretta Sanchez doing?

Loretta Sanchez is a candidate for the California U.S. Senate seat. If this surprises you, you probably aren't alone. Sanchez has held one public campaign event in August. Most candidates would be holding them daily. Especially one with as low a profile as Sanchez. Is she trying to win?

I'm going to speculate that she isn't. She knows she can't beat Kamala Harris, so she's going so spend her time preparing for the 2018 race if DiFi retires as expected. She'll need to raise money and doing that now gives her an advantage. There are donation limits each cycle, but a candidate is allowed to roll over any unused campaign money. If Sanchez raises the max from donors now she can get the max again next cycle. Any other candidate without a Federal account can't do that. I'm going to guess there'll be a lot of money left over in her campaign account after this election.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The House: Likely and Worst Case Scenarios

Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard posits that Donald Trump needs to get at least 44% of the two party vote for Republicans to retain the House. I was thinking that Cost is wrong because he's forgetting that Republicans can get congressional votes from those who vote for a third party. So I decided to run two scenarios, one I think is likely to happen and one I think is the worst case for Republicans retaining the House.

In the first scenario I have Clinton beating Trump 47.0%-41.0%. This is a slightly wider margin than now, especially after the Monmouth poll drops off the RCP average. I'm making the assumption that the 3rd party candidates take 12% of the vote. That's roughly where they are now without factoring in undecided voters. If we were to project undecided voters voting evenly for the candidates the third parties would do better than 12%. In most elections, however, they don't exceed 5%.

Next I wanted to figure out congressional retention. Some people leave down ballot races blank. In 2012 Republicans got a higher percentage of Mitt Romney voters than Democrats got from Barack Obama voters. President Obama won by 5 million votes. Congressional Democrats won by 1.4 million. Then I allocated Johnson-Stein voters, giving Republicans a 9 point edge with them. I reason that our assumption is that voters who'd normally vote Republican for President won't vote Trump. So the retention is higher, as it was in 2012, as well as the percentage of third party voters. This gave Democrats a 2.4% win in the congressional elections, higher than their 1.2% win in 2012. In 2012 that 1.2% win got them 201 seats. Based on 2012 margins I see a 2.4% win getting them 205 seats. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a 17 seat gain. The prognosticators are saying Democrats will gain 10-15. So even in what I view as a likely scenario with several Republican assumptions the GOP still suffers serious losses. Just not enough to lose the House.

So what'll it take for Democrats to win the House. With an 8.8% Clinton win, voter retention not as good, and a more equitable third party reallocation, we end up with a Democratic 7.2% congressional win. I think that'd get Democrats a majority.

The assumptions here favor Democrats but, so I conclude that a Clinton win in the 9% range wouldn't definitely cause the House to flip but it'd be in danger of flipping. Cost posits that Trump would need to get at least 44% of the two party vote. In my example here Trump has 45% and I think there's a better than average chance the House would flip. If Trump loses the two party vote 56%-44% the House would be in serious danger for Republicans. The good news for the GOP is that the RCP average has never had him below 45.3% of the two party vote. Trump is doing better than that now. Of course he could still drop.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trump v. Clinton, State and National polls 8/19

I updated my polls sheet based on this week's polls and found that the state-national variance is now reversed. Last week the national polls showed Clinton with a 6.4% lead while the state polls showed her with a 5.3% lead. This week the state polls have her with a 6.4% lead, while the national polls have her with a 4.5% lead. The state polls seemingly are a week behind the national polls. I could try to speculate why but it isn't that the state polls are necessarily polling a week earlier. The newest state polls are from the same week as the national polls. I use state polls that could have been done over several months, while the national poll pretty much only cover the last week.

I think national polls are a better indicator of where the race is, since there could be 5-7 national polls in the last week while even the most polled state will only get polled by 1-2 pollsters per week. Other states might get polled once a month.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tying the Down Ballot to the Presidential Candidate

In an effort to win elections Democrats have been tying Republican down ballot candidates to Donald Trump. Trump, of course, isn't your typical Republican and has many views that Republican candidates can easily disavow. Some of them are ones he has in common with Democrats. I'm guessing Democrats will avoid tying Republican candidates to views they agree with Donald Trump on. But Trump is clearly unpopular and there are negatives he brings to the campaign. I'm on record saying that people do ballot split and that Republicans won't do as badly as Trump does.

But Trump doing badly can hurt Republicans down ballot. While I don't think many people will vote Democratic down ballot because they dislike Donald Trump, Trump could encourage more Democrats to vote and discourage Republicans. Trump likely will hurt Republicans, even if it's only by a point or two.

Democrats have a candidate who is also unpopular. A candidate with her favorability rating usually couldn't get elected President. Except that Americans like Donald Trump less. Only 11% of Americans find Hillary Clinton honest and trustworthy. Guy Benson over at Townhall does a good job chronicling this.

Republicans have to twist themselves to distance themselves from Trump, often saying phrases like, "I support the nominee." To them saying "Donald Trump" is akin to saying Voldemort. It isn't hard for these candidates to criticize what Trump says or disavow Trump's policies. Donald Trump has no ties to the Republican party or Republican candidates, making it difficult to say a candidate is lock step with Trump. It can be tough to tie someone voters have voted for again and again to someone who just entered politics.

Democrats, on the other hand, have supported Hillary Clinton for years, many of them dismissing criticism of her as right wing lies. After the State Department Inspector General report and the James Comey press conference it's difficult to defend Clinton as honest and trustworthy. Clinton is a long time mainstream Democrat. Unlike Trump, few Democrats want to distance themselves from her. Because the Clintons hold great power in the Democratic party and are known to be unforgiving to those that cross them, distancing yourself from Hillary Clinton could be bad for a candidate's long-term success.

I'd think that Republicans would want to do the same as Democrats are doing and tie down ballot Democrats to Hillary Clinton. They haven't. And the media doesn't ask Democrats about things Hillary Clinton has said and done like they do with Republicans and Trump. That changed when CNN asked Democratic New Hampshire Senate candidate Maggie Hasnan three times if Hillary Clinton was honest and trustworthy.

Hasnan stands by Clinton, giving reasons why she supports her party's nominee. But she wouldn't say Clinton was honest. Later her campaign said that Hasnan believes Clinton is honest and trustworthy. So Hasnan is willing to say Clinton is honest but not say it on camera. This is probably because if she does Kelly Ayotte could run an ad with Hasnan saying Clinton is honest followed by Clinton lying. Hasnan won't let that happen.

Down ballot Democrats probably want to talk about Hillary Clinton only slightly more than down ballot Republicans want to talk about Donald Trump. They sure don't want to answer questions about Clinton's honesty or whether Clinton put national security in danger. Democrats are going to tie Republicans to Trump. Will Republicans tie Democrats to Clinton?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Partisan Gerrymandering

Partisan gerrymandering is held up as a political evil responsible for obstructionism, gridlock, and people being disenfranchised. Without it, things would be right in the political world. Or at least better. There’s a lawsuit in North Carolina that’s attempting to end partisan gerrymandering. I’ll leave the merits of the suit and it’s possibility for success to legal scholars.

Those who want to end partisan gerrymandering point to how Democrats won 51% of the North Carolina House of Representatives vote in 2012 and only won 4 congressional districts. Thus, there must be something wrong and a remedy to make it right. It’s unclear what right is. Is it that a party should win the proportional number of seats to the statewide vote or that the lines should be drawn without partisanship in mind?

These are two different things. If we draw districts to ensure each party wins a certain number of seats, we’re hoping to make the districts safer and less competitive. After all, if the seats are toss-ups one party can win a disproportionate number in close races. If you don’t think that can happen you didn’t notice that Democrats won all 7 2014 California congressional races decided by 6 points or less and all 9 of those decided by 12 points or less.

California is a very interesting counterpoint when it comes to this issue. The districts were drawn by a non-partisan commission. While there are some quibbles, and I’ve expressed a few here, those quibbles are minor. At worst, the commission did a good job in California. Democrats now hold a 39-14 advantage in the California delegation and they might even take more Republican held seats in November.

Statewide Republicans usually get about 42% of the vote. Neel Kashkari got 40% in his 2014 run for governor. Mitt Romney got 38% of the two party vote in 2012. That’s about the worst a Republican will do statewide. Yet, 38-42% of the vote would get the GOP 20-22 congressional seats proportionally. So even a non-partisan commission shortchanges one party tremendously.

Currently Republicans hold an 18-9 edge in Florida congressional seats, even though the state has been fairly even statewide. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the districts had been drawn by Republicans to favor Republicans. They ordered them redrawn. The Republicans did that and the Supreme Court was satisfied. The net result is that Democrats will definitely pick up a Republican seat, Republicans will pick up a Democratic seat, while two Republican and one Democratic seat are in play. The best outcome this year could result in Democrats still having a 16-11 disadvantage.

That’s without gerrymandering. This happens in Florida, and most other states, because Democrats tend to have huge advantages in urban districts and Republicans have smaller advantages in suburban and rural districts. Districts drawn along geographic lines are almost always going to favor Republicans. They do favor Democrats in California because the urban areas are incredibly large and have a lot more districts than urban areas in other states.

If you put an end to partisan gerrymandering you’ll probably see 1 seat in many states move from safe for the party that drew it to safe for the other party and a couple of other semi-safe seats be competitive. Most of the seats will remain non-competitive. So if the end game of getting rid of partisan gerrymandering is to make more competitive districts and make people feel like their vote counts, they won’t succeed even if the lawsuit does. They’ll only succeed if the end game is to put an end to partisan gerrymandering because it feels wrong. Is that really a worthwhile goal?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Trump v. Clinton, State and National polls

On a message board I frequent a poster asked this question, “Trump is averaging 42% in national polls and polls that have him at 32 or 33 in Colorado and Virginia seem right to everyone?”

Trump isn’t at 42% in national polls. He’s at 37.6% in 4-way polls. If you look only at 2 way polls, Trump is at 41%, however. And he is at 33% in one Virginia poll and 32% in a Colorado poll by the same pollster.

My preference is for 4-way polls, since there’ll be at least 3 names on the ballot in every state and 4 in many of them. So why include voters for Trump who won’t vote for him? All 4 candidates aren’t always included in state polls, but there are also a higher percentage of undecideds in those polls.

I decided to see if the state and national polls were compatible. I found they were, but first my methodology.

I took the number of votes each state had in the 2012 Presidential election. Of course the states won’t have that exact number but it’ll approximate proportionality. Next I took the percentages Clinton and Trump got in the RCP averages for state polls. In some cases several polls were used. In others only one was used. Doing this can lead to some unreliable numbers, as the single poll might not be accurate and might be a month or more old. I allocated votes based on these percentages and put any undecided/third party votes in the third party column. This may inflate the third party totals but as long as I wasn’t assigning the votes to Clinton or Trump it wouldn’t effect their margin. (Note: 3rd party/undecided actually has the most votes in Utah and Vermont)

If there were no polls I used percentages calculated by fivethirtyeight. I don’t know their methodology but using their projection beats just guessing.

The states where I used polls are highlighted in yellow on the linked spreadsheet. The states where I used fivethirtyeight’s projection are in blue.

Totaling up all these votes got me a Clinton win of 43.4%-38.1%. That’s roughly a point off the current national polling of Clinton 44.0%-37.6%. That’s really close when you consider the state and national polls were taken at different times by different pollsters. A few new state polls could increase Clinton’s margin to the national average.

One reason Trump is doing better in the state polls is that he’s doing well in California and New York, two states in the top four in votes. Romney lost California by 23 and New York by 28. Trump is losing those two by 16 and 13. Two recent New York polls had Trump that close. That results in a net gain of 2.1 million votes by Trump. Clinton has a net gain of 4 million in the remaining states. Fivethirtyeight predicts a 21.5 Clinton win in New York and a 22.8 point win in California. If I input those margins I come up with a Clinton 6.3% win, almost identical to her 6.4% lead in the national polls.

Clinton’s national lead of 5.2% in the state polls and 6.4% in the national polls is 1.4%-2.6% larger than Barack Obama’s 3.8% win in 2012. If the states moved uniformly Mrs. Clinton would win Colorado by roughly 7 points and Virginia by 6. Yet she’s ahead by 11 and 10. This could be just a lack of the same pollster polling both at the same time or it could be because Donald Trump is going to genuinely change the map. He isn’t your typical Republican and it makes sense that his support isn’t going to uniformly move from Romney’s. Trump may lose New York by a much smaller margin than Romney while losing elsewhere by larger margins.

The state polls don’t show a dramatic electoral difference. Clinton picks up Georgia and North Carolina while losing Iowa. Iowa and Georgia are so close in the polls that they could easily be won by the same party that won them in 2012.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The odd DCCC polls

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released Trump-Clinton polls for seven districts. The districts aren't among the nine that either Larry Sabato or Charlie Cook put in a lean/likely/safe Democratic column. They are among a next group of toss-up/lean Republican districts. If Democrats win all seven of these they probably net a minimum of 20 seats. While that isn't enough to take the majority, it's better than most projections now. The experts are saying Democrats +10-15, a number I agree with. Republicans picked up 13 seats in 2014 and their caucus was already a big bigger than it should be. In a neutral year Democrats should net 15 seats. Redistricting in Virginia and Florida alone should net them 2-3.

A congressional campaign committee releasing presidential poll results is odd. The narrative they are trying to push is that Hillary Clinton is winning big in these districts, so the Democrat in the congressional race must be too. If that were the case, then why didn't they release those results, the only ones that actually matter to the point they're making?

Probably because the polls don't show them doing that well. These polls have Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 6 points in CA-10 and 12 points in CA-25. The California primary had heavy Democratic turn-out and the Democrats won these two districts by 13 and 14 points. Republicans beat Democrats in the two districts by 16 and 12 points. The primary showed us that people do split their ballots and that even if Clinton wins these two districts by 6 and 12 points the Democratic congressional candidate could lose by double digits.

There is actually a congressional number for the IL-10 poll. In that one the Democratic congressional candidate is winning by 6 points. In a district Hillary Clinton is winning by 31 points. That 25 point spread is actually very similar to the CA-10 and 25 spread in the June primary. The DCCC numbers lead me to believe that the typical margin between in the congressional race will be 25 points smaller than in the Presidential race. That'd mean Democrats would only win one of these districts.

I've long been skeptical of the idea that people don't split ballots but that's really going to be turned on its ear this year. We saw in primary polling that the same electorate that had Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 7 points also had John Kasich beating her by 4 points. If those people would vote Republican down ballot with Kasich as the candidate then they aren't going to change their vote because they aren't voting for Trump.

Here's a poll that came out after I wrote this:

When you release an internal you release one that shows you up 17. This may have been released in response to Larry Sabato moving the district to “Likely Republican.” Internals are supposed to favor whoever releases them. So the horse race number should be taken with a grain of salt. This poll is, however, similar to the DCCC polls that showed a wide difference between the Presidential and congressional margin.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Today's Polling

Since yesterday the Clinton-Trump spread has jumped to 6.3%, a good jump based on new polls. We're still seeing a Clinton convention bounce but a bigger bounce may mean she'll retain some of it. The McClatchy/Marist poll that has Hillary Clinton up 14% appears to be an outlier. It's worth noting that the three likely voter polls have Clinton up by 4.3%, while the six polls of registered voters have her up by 7.3%. People who don't vote tend to like Democrats more, but if they don't vote their preference doesn't count. Donald Trump may well lose by 10-15% in the general election, as some predict, but the polls right now don't suggest that.

That McClatchy/Marist poll also has Democrats up by 8% in generic congressional ballot. The survey is registered, not likely, voters, and it is an outlier in the Presidential ballot. Would 8% be enough for Democrats to take the House? In 2012 Republicans won the 218th district by 6.1% and lost the popular vote by 1.2%. So Democrats would’ve roughly needed to win by 7.4% to win it then. The PVI of the 218th district is only R+2.8%, however. Because Republican House candidates tend to be stronger than their Presidential nominee, especially this year, winning by 2.9% isn’t likely to get Democrats the House. I'm skeptical the generic ballot is more than D+4-5 right now after the Democratic convention bounce.

If the election were held today I'd give Democrats a 25% chance to take the House.

The election isn't today.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

No, Republicans aren't getting destroyed

Twitter is blowing up on how Donald Trump is in free fall and Hillary Clinton is up by landslide proportions. In the latest RCP average Clinton is up 4.3 points. She was up 4.1 points on July 17. Trump got a convention bounce and so did she. We’re back where we were before the conventions. People talked about convention bounces before then but now seem to have forgotten. Clinton’s bounce may dissipate and Trump could gain in about a week or so. We should remember that Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by 4 points. Clinton may yet win big but nothing in polls is showing that.

Despite the bad Trump numbers, Marco Rubio leads his two likely opponents by 13 and 15 points in the Florida Senate race. That puts him 19 and 21 points ahead of Trump. Clinton leads Trump by 15 or 17 points in New Hampshire, depending on whether you include minor party candidates. Kelly Ayotte trails by 10. That's still a lot but if Clinton leads by 6 in Florida and 4 nationally she's not winning New Hampshire by 15-17 points. It should be more like 5-7. A Franklin and Marshall poll shows Clinton with a 11 point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania. Yet Republican Pat Toomey only trails by 1.

I still don’t see anything here to tell me this is going to be a good Democratic year. Democrats might take the Senate but that's because Republicans hold so many swing seats, not because it's a Democratic year. Democrats should make gains in the House too, due to Republicans holding so many swing seats there. I see Democrats picking up 10 now, but I anticipate I'll say it'll be 15 by November. Democrats need to take 30 seats to gain control of the House.