Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Are the Signs There for Democrats?

Democrats are encouraged about their prospects in congressional races in 2018. Is the year starting to skew Democratic?

There are a lot of Democratic Candidates Running
I’ve never seen anything correlating the number of Democratic candidates running and Democratic success. Darrell Issa is more likely to lose if he has seven Democrats running against him instead of two. It's certainly helpful if they challenge more Republicans than less, but that really wasn't the problem for Democrats in the past. Democrats had candidates in all but one of the Clinton districts a Republican congressional candidate won.

Fundraising is going well especially with grassroots progressive groups
Fundraising has never been a problem for Democrats and they seem to taut their fundraising advantage every cycle. There's evidence that a candidate needs to spend above a certain threshold for the voters to take him or her seriously, but after that's achieved spending isn't always an indicator of success. Democrats heavily outspent Republicans in the GA-6 race and they didn't win that. They didn't lose CA-49 in 2016 for lack of spending. They spent a lot.

Republican retirements are high
This is seen as an indicator for two reasons. First, these congressmen must know more than we do and that's why they're retiring. Second, open seats are much easier to flip. The problem here is that Republican retirements aren't all that high. Here are the numbers since 2006:

2006: 18R, 9D
2008: 27R, 6D
2010: 20R, 17D
2012: 19R, 22D
2014: 25R, 16D
2016: 25R, 18D
2018: 17R, 8D

What we see here is that Republicans have had higher retirement numbers in good Republican years and lower ones in good Democratic years. This year could be an all time high for Republicans but only 10 of the 17 Republican retirees are running for another office. in 2014 only 11 of the 25 retirees ran for another office. Generally, congressmen running for another office announce earlier to get an earlier start on campaigning. So right now 7 Republicans are actually retiring, compared to 14 in 2014. There were 20 retirements in 2016. I see no reason to think we'll get closer to the 20 than the 14 and Republicans actually did well with the 20 retirements last year.

While you may be hearing Republicans in competitive districts are retiring, that doesn't appear to be the case. Only 2 of the Republicans in a Clinton district is retiring. Donald Trump won Charlie Dent's PA-15 and Dave Trott's MI-11. Those could be competitive districts but they aren't going too be competitive solely on Donald Trump's unpopularity.

The Generic Ballot is Good for Democrats
This is true and the Democrats are better off with a good generic ballot than a bad one. The Democrats led for most of the 2014 and 2016 cycles, however, and lost the congressional vote each time. Polling seems to have had a tougher time finding Republican voters than it has in the fast. So this could be good for Democrats but it might not be.

2018 should be a good year for Democrats but I see nothing yet to tell me it definitely will be.

Monday, August 21, 2017

California Democrats are Attempting to Pass New Recall Election Bill

After the gas tax passed California Republicans began collecting signatures to recall Democratic state senator Josh Newman, who had voted for the gas tax. This angered California Democrats. Since they hold all the legislative power they passed a bill to make it much more difficult to recall Newman. Democrats shouted that the recall effort was misleading voters and should have to pass new hurdles.

Wait. What?

Are Democrats really arguing that a political campaign can't mislead voters? Seriously? Misleading voters is a strategy every campaign uses, Republicans and Democrats alike. I mean, come on.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit to prevent that bill being implemented. The court didn't rule on the legality of the bill but stayed its implementation until after the court hears arguments and rules on the bill's legality. Democrats were attempting to pass new rules while the recall effort was underway. So the recall petitions will be certified before that happens and the election will be scheduled. Ex post facto laws are illegal in the United States and it could certainly be argued that applying this law to an existing recall would be an ex post facto law.

Democrats are undeterred and have decided to stick their middle finger at the judge and pass another bill similar to the first one. Are they trying to piss off the judge? If he stayed the first bill, he's going to stay any new bills that do the same thing. As far as Democrats are concerned they have the power to rig the election rules and they're going to use it. They don't care who knows it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Republican Need to Understand the Landscape

Republicans thought they'd have it easy. They'd repeal and replace Obamacare. It's something they've won elections repeatedly promising they'd do and it was popular. Now they are in a position to do just that they're finding they can't get the votes to do it and it's suddenly unpopular to do it.


It's not 2009. Republicans could've put their plan in to replace what existed before Obamacare. There are a good number of people who've been hurt by Obamacare. They've lost good insurance plans, sometimes more than once, and are now on a much more expensive plan that has such a high deductible that they pay for everything out of pocket. I know. I'm one of those people. I had a great plan for 12 years and it was cancelled when the ACA went into effect. And then my next plan was too.

But we don't count for a lot. Sure, we might have in 2009. If the Democrats had been truthful and told America that 3 million people would lose their health insurance due to the ACA he never would’ve passed it. But they weren't. And a lot of people haven't gotten health insurance through the ACA. And many of those people have gotten cheap insurance. Now none of them would lose their insurance with the Republican plan. (At least that's how it reads. Implementation may mean something else.) The 23 million people who the CBO said wouldn't have health insurance include almost entirely people who don't have it now but the CBO assumes will if Obamacare continues or people who choose to not have it.

That's not what the public believes. Democrats have most everyone believing they'll lose their insurance. Kamala Harris has said 129 million people could lose their coverage. That's reality.

It doesn’t matter that the ACA is unsustainable and that there are better ways of doing it. The Republican plan is less generous with subsidies and is being sold as something that'll take away people's insurance. Once government gives people something you can’t give them less. Republicans need to stop thinking what might be better and understand what the public will accept. They can change the ACA and make it more sustainable and more Republican, as long as people don’t lose their insurance and it doesn’t get pricier. If Republicans pass the current plan, even if it doesn't do what the critics say, they’ll get slammed at the polls in 2018. That's why they can't pass their plan. They can't get the votes to make massive changes. So they either make smaller changes incrementally or they do nothing. At least they can sell small changes at the polls.

I'm not sure that Republicans can avoid big losses in 2018, but so far everything they've done is helping make that happen. They may get slammed by their base if they don't make those massive changes. If they don't take that risk, they'll get slammed by everybody else.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

CA-Gov: Newsom vs. Villaraigosa?

We're still discovering how top two elections will work in California but the U.S. Senate race was enlightening as to what happens when there are strong Democratic candidates and weak unknown Republicans. Democrats got 64% of the vote and Republicans got 29%. A 35% difference was a huge Democratic margin for a primary. In 2014 the margin in statewide races was 12-17. Even in races with well known Democrats and no name Republicans. The Controller race was 48%-45% Democratic. So what will we have in 2018, a 15 point margin or a 35 point margin? There are arguments to support it could be either.

It'll be closer to 35% because California is moving towards the Democrats. Yes, a 20% shift in one year is enormous and unrealistic to expect but it shouldn't be ignored. A 5% shift would be worth looking at but a 20% shift is meaningful. The general election was even more one-sided for Hillary Clinton than the 2012 election was for Barack Obama due to Donald Trump's unpopularity. And 2018 should be a Democratic year. If California voters were anti-Trump in 2016 they'll be even more anti-Trump in 2018.

It'll be closer to 15% because the 2016 primary turnout was skewed heavily Democratic due to there being a competitive Democratic Presidential primary and an uncompetitive one. It was an anomaly that can't be duplicated. Mid-term turnout is always lower and there are a lot of people who'll stay home because Clinton and Sanders won't be on the ballot. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the general election by 30%, but that was because people disliked Donald Trump. There were 14 districts where Republicans won the congressional race and another 6 where they got between 42 and 49% of the congressional vote. Hillary Clinton won those 20 districts by 3%, but congressional Republicans won them by 10%. Based on the congressional margin the November electorate was really Democrats by 17%, not 30%.

This is important because if the gubernatorial primary is 55%D-40%R Democrats are unlikely to take both spots in top two, but if it's 64%D-29%R that becomes a lot more likely. Harris and Sanchez did take 92% of the Democratic vote in 2016. With the presence of John Chiang and Delaine Eastin in the race that number should be lower.

Gavin Newsom has positioned himself as the progressive in the race. He’s running on no moderation at all. Republicans are irrelevant in the state. We’re going for a progressive paradise! Whether Newsom is in fact on the that far left isn’t relevant. He’s selling himself there. And it’s not a bad place to be in a Democratic primary. He will get more Democratic votes than Villaraigosa and then would crush a Republican in the general election.

Villaraigosa is positioning himself as the level headed pro-business candidate. He’s a big charter schools advocate and has run afoul of the CTA. He called single payer unaffordable, running afoul of the California Nurses. Those are two of the most powerful unions in the state. Running to the right of Newsom is a tough spot to make top two from but Villaraigosa really has no other choice. He can’t get to Newsom’s left.

While Newsom is hoping that strong Republican turnout will give him a Republican opponent, Villaraigosa is hoping a divided Republican field gives a result like 2016. If the two of them make top two Newsom could be in trouble. Villaraigosa would be positioned on the left of 50%+1 while Newsom would be to the left of that. Newsom would need to pivot to the center to win Republican and independent votes but that’d betray progressives. If Villaraigosa has run a strong campaign he’d already be well positioned.

That brings up the question of how Villaraigosa could win being to the right of Newsom when Loretta Sanchez didn't. There are a few reasons. First, money. Sanchez didn't have much while Villaraigosa has quite a bit. He'll need a lot if he's going to try to position himself in a sweet spot of not conservative but not too liberal. Newsom's positioning is far easier. He can just recite the progressive positions. Sanchez had trouble positioning herself in the right spot. She really didn't have moderate positions on anything other than defense and her congressional track record wasn't strong. She was just a less desirable version of Kamala Harris. Finally, the offices are different. While people tend to vote ideology for the House and Senate they are more likely to vote competence for governor. Of course Villaraigosa will have to show he's more competent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Republicans Win GA-6 and SC-5

Democrats spent $30 million on today’s GA-6 special election and came up 5.2% short. They actually did better in the first round of voting. They also spent next to nothing on yesterday’s SC-5 special election and came up only 3.2% short. The simplest way to look at the 2017 special congressional elections is that Republicans won all four elections. You only get House seats if you win, not if you come close. So the Democrats haven’t gained anything and they remain deep in the minority.

(Note: There was a special election in the very Democratic CA-34 which Democrats did win)

Looking at the chart above things aren’t that bleak. They beat the Trump Clinton margin by 14.5 points in three of the four races. Donald Trump won 230 congressional districts, but he won only 159 of them by more than 14.5 points. If they were to do 14.5 points better in 2018 Democrats would take the House in a landslide. The problem there is the one district they didn’t do 14.5 points better than the Clinton margin was GA-6. They only needed to do 1.6 points better and actually did worse. If they don’t beat Clinton’s margin they aren’t going to win many districts at all.

In three of the four races they improved on the 2016 congressional margin by 17.3 points. Republicans only won 190 districts by more than 17.3 points. If Democrats close the 2016 margins by 17.3 points they’ll win 245 seats. That’d be a smaller landslide but still a landslide. In Montana-AL, improving on the 2016 congressional result by 17.3 points would’ve won them the seat. That was the one district they didn’t improve by that much and didn’t win it. If they close the gap by 9.6% in all districts they’ll only net 13 seats in 2018.

The good news for Democrats is that they did beat the 2016 congressional margin dramatically in every district. The bad news is that these were all open seats. Incumbents are much harder to beat than winning an open seat. As of now, there is only one open seat in a competitive district, FL-27. That should change but right now Democrats will have to beat a lot of incumbents to take back the House.

In 2006 and 2008 Democrats won 56 Republican seats. Of those 20, 36%, were open. A number of the Republican incumbents in 2006 were plagued by scandal. If Democrats don’t get more retirements (or scandals) they’ll have to beat a lot more incumbents than they did in 2006 and 2008.

Who are the vulnerable incumbents? Is it the 24 Republican districts where the GOP candidate won by 12.8% or less? These four weren’t among those districts. Is it the 23 Republican held districts Hillary Clinton won? Again she didn’t win any of these. She did, however, come close to winning GA-6 and Democrats will have to win a 24th district to get the majority. Of course Democrats aren’t going to win every district Clinton won, even in a wave. They didn’t win every district Barack Obama won in 2008 either. They will have to beat incumbents in districts like GA-6 or MT-AL.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why is it Shocking that Democrats may Win Seats?

Every time there's some bad news about a GOP held district the MSM runs an article saying, "Does this mean Republicans are in trouble?" It's treated as shocking news.Please. Everyone knows that 2018 should be a bad year for Republicans. The GOP has the White House. When a party holds the White House, they almost always lose the House popular vote. Republicans hold 241 House seats after winning the popular vote 49.1%-48.0% in 2016. Even a narrow popular vote loss in 2018 would mean Democrats should gain 7 seats to get to the 201 they had when they won the House popular vote in 2012.

So we should start with the idea it'll be a Democratic year. Donald Trump is unpopular and he did poorly in highly educated suburban districts like GA-6 in 2016. These are the most vulnerable districts for 2018. Jon Osoff nearly took the district in the first election. It won't be a shocker if he wins it in this election. This is an open district. Open districts where the Republican is retiring are the most vulnerable. I'd be shocked if the Democrats don't win 80-90% of them. Right now FL-27 is the only other swing district we know will be open. If there are 5 such districts next year Democrats should win at least 4. If there are 10, they should win 8-9. The problem for Democrats is that there probably won't be more than 5 swing districts that are open. Right now KS-2 and OH-16 will be open. These are districts that both the Republican incumbent and Donald Trump won by at least 16 points. They are tough wins for Democrats even as open seats.

If Democrats get the majority they'll have to win a significant number of swing districts where the GOP incumbent is running for re-election. Those are harder to win, but parties do win them in a wave. Unfortunately, special elections are only held for open seats. So we won't get an idea how Republican incumbents will fare in November 2018.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Berkeley IGS Poll Good News for Villaraigosa

A new Berkeley IGS Poll for California governor is out. Democratic LG Gavin Newsom leads Democratic former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa 22%-17%. Newsom led Villaraigosa 28%-11% in the last poll.

This is an ugly poll for everyone except Villaraigosa. Obviously cutting Newsom's lead from 17% to 5% is a huge positive. But it goes beyond that. Since California went to top two, there have been several statewide elections that had only unknown Republicans. Those Republicans tended to split the Republican vote. That's what's happened here now that David Hadley is included. That could mean that no Republican makes top two. That's bad news more bad news Newsom. Newsom wants to go up against a Republican next November. He's staked out the furthest left wing position in the field. That should get him the most votes in the primary and he'd crush a Republican in the general.

Antonio Villaraigosa seems likely to stake out a more moderate business friendly position and he is well established as a charter schools supporter. If he runs a strong campaign raising good money, being a moderate should mean he'd beat Newsom one on one. He'd pick up a huge chunk of the Republican and moderate independent vote while still maintaining his Democratic base with Latinos and Angelenos.

Okay, I hear you say, but Loretta Sanchez was the moderate in the 2016 Senate race and she got creamed. There's some big differences between Villaraigosa and Sanchez. Sanchez wasn't well known, she lacked a moderate track record, money, and strong campaign skills. Villaraigosa seems more likely to have those.

Gavin Newsom is hurt by John Chiang dropping from 8% to 5%. He needs Chiang to take enough of Villaraigosa's support to drop Villaraigosa below a Republican. Chiang is going in the wrong direction. There's a chance that Chiang sees his chances being so low that he runs for re-election instead. The biggest impediment to that is that individual campaign contributions are capped at $7,300 per person for Treasurer but are $29,200 per person for governor. Chiang couldn't transfer any contribution an individual made that's over $7,300.

Monday, June 5, 2017

CA-34 Run-Off Should Be Close

The run-off for the CA-34 special congressional election is tomorrow. I looked at ballot returns in the primary and thought Jimmy Gomez might be in trouble. Gomez did end up getting the most votes but now he's in a one-on-one with Robert Ahn and Ahn has done a great job in getting out the vote. We have data on the CA-34 VBM returns.

There have been 111 more ballots returned by Koreans than Latinos. That's a 30% return for Koreans and a measly 4% return for Latinos. The day before the primary there were 4,894 Latinos and 4,001 Koreans. Overall Asian returns are almost 50% higher than Latino. With ballot returns like this you want to watch the first election results. They should come out at 8:40 PM. Those are VBMs before election day. If Ahn is ahead he has a chance to win. If he's not, that means that an electorate with more Koreans than Latinos doesn't favor him. The election day vote isn't likely to be even more Korean than the lop-sided returns so far. If Ahn is behind, Gomez should win.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Montana-AL and the 2018 Congressional Vote

Last night Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist by 7 points in a special election to fill Montana's vacant congressional seat. There's always an effort to read into any special election and this one is no different.

It's true that Democrats have done very well in legislative and congressional special elections this year and that should be encouraging for them in 2018. A Republican being in the White House tells us all we need to know that this election should be a Democratic wave. You can stop reading here if that's all you need to know.

If not, here are some caveats. Don't compare the special election results to Trump-Clinton numbers. The biggest reason is that's a Presidential race between two candidates that don't live in the district, or in this case state, and this is a local race. In November Republicans rarely saw big gains in districts Trump improved over Romney and Democrats didn't see big gains in most district that Clinton improved over Barack Obama. Congressional numbers are a better barometer.

Ryan Zinke won the district by 15.6% in 2016. So a 7 point win for Gianforte shows a Democratic gain. One problem with that is that Zinke was an incumbent. This, like all special elections, had no incumbent. A party will almost always do better in an open seat race than when going up against an incumbent.

One thing that may be encouraging for Republicans is that the turn out in the special election was higher than the 2014 mid-term. Special elections are usually lower enthusiasm lower vote total affairs. Democrats are hoping for low Republican turn out but that doesn't appear to be the case in this election. If Democrats can't win districts with mid-term turnouts that could bode ill for them in 2018.

Trump won this state by a large margin and that's caused some Democrats to dismiss the district as one they won't have to win in 2018. When looking at congressional results, it is. Republicans won 217 seats by 13% or more. If Democrats were to win all of those seats they'd have the 24 they'd need to win back the House. Of course, planning on winning just those exact seats. They'll need to target a much broader group.

There are another 17 seats Republicans won by 13.4% - 15.6%. This is a good group to look at but they also look at any seat the GOP won by 20% or less that's open. A Republican incumbent who won by 12% may be harder to beat than winning an open seat that the GOP won by 20%. Zinke won MT-AL by 15.6%. That puts this seat at the upper limit Democrats should look at but it was also an open seat and that makes it far more likely to flip. Democrats can't dismiss any open seats in 2018.

Monday, May 15, 2017

508 ineligible North Carolina voters cast ballots in 2016

The state of North Carolina did an audit and found that 508 ineligible voters cast ballots in 2016. Of these 87% were felons ineligible to vote and 8% were non-citizens. The non-citizen number may be a bit higher, as they couldn't verify 61 additional voters. Only two people voted for someone else, both a recently deceased family member.

This audit pretty much sums up the truth in the voter fraud debate. Democrats deny that there are any people illegally casting ballots when there are some. Contrary to what Republicans say, it’s a pretty insignificant number. It's insignificant unless you're talking the 2008 Minnesota Senate race that was decided by less votes than ineligible convicted felons who voted.

Voter ID wouldn’t have prevented most of these, although I imagine that there are quite a few more instances of voter fraud they don't catch. The two they did catch here were people voting for deceased relatives, not people coming up with a scheme to create illegal votes. I don't know how many people get away with that, but I don't think there's any way to know the number. It's probably not significant.

Most of the people casting illegal ballots were wrongly registered to vote. One disturbing thing is the 102 non-citizens voting. The article doesn't paint them as part of an elaborate scheme to steal an election, but as people who thought they could and weren't eligible. North Carolina doesn’t give driver’s licenses to undocumented aliens the way California does. I’m guessing California has a lot more than 102 non-citizens voting, with most of whom think it’s legal to do so. This audit does show that contrary to what Donald Trump thinks there’s no evidence the number is significant and changed any election. Of course, any illegal votes shouldn’t be prevented.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Democrats Winning Trump Districts

The media has spent a lot of time writing about Republican districts Clinton won and how the Democrats will take them in 2018. So here's finally an article about a district Trump won. The focus of the article isn't how Republicans will take these. If Democrats will take Clinton districts it's logical to think Republicans will take Trump districts. No, the focus of the article is how Democrats could take even more Trump districts. Democrats dismiss media bias but part of it is the articles they write and how they write them. The focus is almost always about how Democrats are going to win elections, not on how Republicans will win.

Cheri Bustos won her district because it was a Democratic district. It has voted Democratic down ballot. Look at the seats which switched parties in 2016. There were a bunch in Florida and Virginia that switched due to redistricting. There were some districts that had been swing districts before, and they swung the other way in 2016. NJ-5 doesn't fit into either of those but that was a Republican district that Scott Garrett because of things he did.

There was only one district that was Romney-Clinton or Obama-Trump that flipped. That was NV-3. It was Obama-Trump and actually flipped the other way to the Democrat! There were some Romney-Clinton or Obama-Trump districts where the challenger came close, but that’s the best they did. If Romney-Clinton districts were really as vulnerable as people think, you would’ve seen a few flip in 2016. These congressmen would only be marginally vulnerable in a normal election. If there’s a wave, of course, they could be very vulnerable. What they don't mention in the article is that Donald Trump won IL-17 by less than 1 point. That's not a district Trump won by 10 or 20. Those districts aren't flipping even in a wave.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Did Republicans Just Cost Themselves the Majority?

Democrats seem to think so and the Washington Post asks the question.

Democrats have been making the argument that the American voter was going to punish Republicans for the last four cycles, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. They were going punish Republicans for obstructing President Obama's agenda. They were going to punish Republicans for the government shutdown. They were going to punish Republicans for blocking President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. There was a long list of things the voters were supposed to punish Republicans for. They never did. Republicans won the House vote by 7% in 2010, lost it by 1% in 2012, and won it by 6% in 2014, and 1% in 2016. Every time in the past Democrats claimed Republicans would be punished they weren't punished. So why would they be right now?

There's one big reason. There's a Republican in the White House, not a Democrat. Yes, voters have punished congress a few times before, but the President's party almost always gets beat in a mid-term. A President galvanizes the opposition in a way nothing else can. And Democrats are showing a lot of opposition. It's true that the mid-term electorate has favored the GOP in the past but that should be seen as immutable as the Permanent Democratic Majority was.

Less people always show up in a mid-term. In seven mid-terms from 1986 to 2010, the electorate was 71-76% of the previous Presidential electorate. In 2014, it was 64%. Both sides will lose voters who don't see it important to vote in a mid-term. If Democrats lose 20% of their voters and Republicans lose 30% of theirs, Democrats win the House vote by 8% in 2018. And that's certainly possible. While Democrats have had more voters indifferent about the mid-terms in the past they might not be indifferent with Donald Trump in the White House. Well, at least enough less of them might to help Democrats win.

There's another factor which often hurts the party in the White House. Swing voters are often disappointed. They expect something and the President doesn't deliver. The good news for Republicans is that Trump voters don't regret voting for him. Yet. There's still time.

In 2016 Donald Trump wasn't closely associated with House and Senate Republicans. There were many Republican held districts where Trump dropped off heavily from Romney and the House Republican didn't really drop off from how they did in 2012. The reverse was true. House Republicans failed to make inroads in many districts where Trump did a lot better than Romney. That was seen as unusual in age the experts insist there isn't ticket splitting. Of course, that was when Trump wasn't in office. It's a lot easier to see Republicans in the House being associated with Donald Trump now that they're working together. That could be a double edged sword. Yes, Republicans in Clinton won districts could suffer but Republican challengers in districts Trump won could take those. There's a lot of talk about 22 Republican districts Clinton won but not about the 11 Democratic districts Trump won. If Republicans can take 1 Democratic district for every 2 they lose, they'll have a bad night but still keep the House.

Will the AHCA hurt Republicans? I actually don't think so. I think the opposition would be robust whether they passed this bill or they didn't. I don't think vulnerable Republicans who voted no will be spared. Democrats were already energized before this bill passed. I doubt that'd dissipate if they didn't pass it. I think Democrats should do very well in the 2018 election. Of course, others have predicted they'd do well in previous elections and that didn't really happen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Democrats and the 2016 and 2018 Elections

Hillary Clinton lost the Presidential election despite having more overall popular votes while losing several states by small margins. All those things are true. What is controversial is why. Some Democrats think Trump would never have won if the Republicans hadn't had help from James Comey and the Russians. Of course, Republicans won the House vote by 1.4 million votes and James Comey and the Russians had nothing to do with that.

Hillary Clinton clearly falls into the camp of "it was James Comey and the Russians." Believing this works for a few reasons. She doesn't have to accept responsibility for the loss and who wants to accept responsibility? That makes us fee bad. And other people get angry at us. And we might think that our policies aren't supported by enough people or that we are personally flawed. Better to blame it on others.

That's not to say that James Comey's letter, which he defends as justified, and the Russians didn't impact the election. Without them, Hillary Clinton would've won the popular vote! Oh wait. She won it anyway. We don't know how many people were influenced by either of these things and it's certainly possible that enough people in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were to flip the election.

On the other hand, about a half dozen women accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. People assumed what they were saying was true, but none offered any evidence. I'm certainly not defending Donald Trump's treatment of women but then I'm not defending Hillary Clinton's treatment of classified information either. Let's say all but one of those women were telling the truth but that last women cost Donald Trump 100,000 votes. No one knows for sure and in a close election we can cite any number of factors which may have cost people votes. One thing that is true is that the leaked DNC emails were real and Hillary Clinton did mishandle classified information. It wasn't like James Comey was accusing her of killing Vince Foster.

I agree with David Axelrod. James Comey didn't prevent Hillary Clinton from campaigning in Wisconsin. Sometimes external factors are going to break against you. Sometimes they'll break for you. I don't get the feeling that anyone from Barack Obama's campaigns would complain about James Comey's letter. No, they'd work as hard as they could and would've won anyway. Of course Obama did have the advantage of never being the target of an FBI investigation. Some guys catch all the breaks!

Blaming the FBI and the Russians for the 2016 loss completely obscures that Democrats did lost the House vote by a point and they failed to beat vulnerable Senate Republicans. Priorities USA, a Democratic Super PAC, decided not to chalk up weak Democratic performance to the FBI and the Russians. They went out and found out why two time Obama voters voted Trump or not at all. And the answers were enlightening. You have to be doing something wrong when people who voted Obama as recently as 2012 switch to the Republicans.

The good news for Democrats is that they control nothing in Washington. How is that good news? Because the party in control gets a ton of blame for everything that goes wrong and people vote for the other party regardless of their policies. The Republican party wasn't offering much in 2010 other than Obamacare repeal, how's that going?, but America voted for them anyway. Because they weren't Democrats. As long as the Democrats don't do anything stupid like tell anyone opposing abortion not to vote for them, tey should do very well in 2018.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Political Parties

In the 2016 election many Bernie Sanders' supporters had a fundamental misunderstanding what political parties are. At their core they are a group of people who come together to support multiple candidates. Political parties tend to form on ideological lines. So it becomes a way for people who share a group of political positions to come together. In parliamentary countries there tend to be a lot of political parties and some parties focus narrowly on specific issues, not taking a stand on other issues. People in these parties support each other's candidacy and it provides a vehicle for donors and volunteers to latch onto. People know what the Democrats roughly stand for. They don't know what an independent stands for unless they look at his or her stances on the issues. An independent is just one candidate and a republic is set up where you have to win many elections to govern. Any time you group candidates together, for any reason, you pretty much have a political party.

Bernie Sanders hasn't wanted to join a political party and many of his supporters haven't either. Sanders, however, chose to run as a Democrat last year and the Democratic party is a group of individuals who've banded together to support other Democrats. Not independents. Since independents don't support all Democrats why should Democrats support independents? The Democratic party had rules that Sanders and his supporters chaffed at following. If he didn't want to follow those rules he shouldn't have become a Democrat. If he wanted to make up the rules himself he should've run as an independent or formed his own political party or like minded people. He chose to do neither.

The American political system has mostly been a two party system from the beginning. That means that one party often needs to get more than half the vote in each election and a party needs to get more than half in more than half the elections. The parties have always had firm, usually opposing, positions on issues. And they've operated on the idea that no one needs to adhere to all those beliefs, that people in their party need only support something in the half to two thirds of those positions. There's never been any strict requirement that to support a party you had to have a particular stance on an issue.

And there's good reason for that. Take abortion. While the numbers have varied a bit, about half of America is pro-choice and the other half is pro-life. If everyone who is pro-choice voted Democratic and everyone who is pro-life voted Republican each party would win roughly half the elections. That'd work fine. But pro-choice voters don't all support the Democratic party.

As you can see in this poll 36% of Republicans support abortion being legal in almost all cases. So Democrats aren't getting their votes. But that balances out, because 24% of Democrats think abortion should be illegal in almost all cases. That's because these people agree with their political party on most other issues. Democrats wouldn't win that many elections without their pro-life voters.

That's why it's perplexing that Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez declared, “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.” The logical conclusion from what Perez is saying that every Democratic candidate has to be pro-choice and, by logical extension, every Democratic voter does too.

This is a suicidal party position. If voters who are pro-life even vote for independents, and not Republicans, Democrats are going to lose most elections. They'll be a small minority in the House, Senate, and won't win the Presidency. Because there are only a few places where people who are pro-choice and support Democrats are the majority of voters. I can't imagine this is a path Democrats will go down.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GA-6: Is a Wave Building?

Last night was the GA-6 primary election. Democrats Jon Osoff failed to get the 50% he needed to avoid a run-off but he had a very strong showing, getting 48% of the vote. He'll face Republican Karen Handel in a run-off. While he may be at a disadvantage in a fairly Republican district, it's a positive sign that Democrats lost this seat 51%-49%. Here are things to consider:

1) It's not necessary for Democrats to win this seat for them to do well in 2018. Republicans won only one House special election in 2010 and that was the quirky jungle primary in HI-1 where Democrats actually got 58% of the vote. They won no special elections from the Democrats in 2014. Yes, they had the big senate win in Massachusetts, but they actually didn't win the senate that year. Winning this seat won't give them the majority. Winning 24 seats in November 2018 will. And they don't need a win to be enthusiastic.

2) Last week some people jumped on the KS-4 result, saying that Republicans won a district Trump won by 27 points by only 8. That's a gain of 19 points! If they can do that everywhere they'll gain over 100 seats! Trump won GA-6 by 1.5 points. Republicans won it by 2 in the special. Oops. So now they're pointing out that Tom Price won the district by 23. That's a gain of 21 points!

3) There are a few problems with applying that everywhere. Jon Osoff spent $8 million, a total Democrats won't match in swing districts in 2018. This was the only race and got 100% Democratic focus. Republicans couldn't push one candidate, only run against Osoff. The biggest difference, however, is that there might be few open seats in competitive districts. Running against an incumbent can be tough, as he or she has a ton of capital with the voters. Open seats are much easier to win and Democrats likely will be favorites in any open swing district. So far six Republicans are retiring. None are in swing districts. At least one Democratic seat, MN-1, is one that should be competitive.

4) Republicans are looking for reasons a wave isn't building, a few of them are detailed above. That's denial. A wave could be building. If one is, these are the results you expect to see in special elections. One thing Republicans can't change is that their party has control of the White House. As they know, that can be a big motivator for the opposition. I doubt opposition to Donald Trump is going to drop. The party with the White House is less motivated. Many people will feel the President they voted for hasn't lived up to expectations. People just expect too much and are disappointed. So they don't go to the polls in mid-terms.

It's way too early to judge whether there's a wave building. In 2010 there were real indications until January of that year. In 2014 there were none. The wave was a surprise on election night. But a wave could be building.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

KS-4 Special Election Means Something or It Doesn't

Last night there was a special election in KS-4 a red district centered in Wichita. Republican Rob Estes won 53%-45%, a lackluster performance considering that Mike Pompeo won 61%-30% a few months ago.

Why It Means Something
The most obvious answer is that if Republicans are winning districts they won by 31 points by only 8 in 2018 they are going to lose a lot of seats. In 2008 and 2010 there were a number of special elections where the Democrats, in the former, and Republicans, in the latter, overperformed what they normally would do. These were signs that a wave was coming.

Why It Means Nothing
There were also elections in those cycles that swung the other way, where Republicans overperformed in 2008 and Democrats overperformed in 2010. This falsely led the parties to think there might not be a wave. On the other hand there were special elections in the 2004 and 2012 cycles where Democrats overperformed. These weren't indicative of a wave. It should be noted that the Kansas environment is positive for Democrats. Governor Sam Brownback is unpopular and Rob Estes is the state treasurer. That won't be the case in GA-6 or MT-AL, so those races might show if this close race was due more to Kansas or the national environment.

When will we know whether this election meant something? Possibly not until after the 2018 election. And that's not helpful at all.

Monday, April 3, 2017

CA-34 Special Still Looks Like a Surprise

Take a good look at this data. It's the VBM returns for the CA-34 special election through Friday. Election day is tomorrow. Despite being only 16% of registered voters Asians are 35% of the returned ballots. Latinos are 49% of registered voters but are only 28% of returned ballots. Voters 18-24 have been only 5% of the returned ballots despite being 10% of voters. Voters age 65+, on the other hand, are 44% of all returned ballots and they are only 19% of voters.

There are still going to be a lot more votes with late VBMs and election day ballots and this could be less than 25% of all ballots cast. But special elections tend to be much heavier VBM than regularly scheduled elections. And we really don't have any reason to believe election day voters are going to be much different. There may be reason for Jimmy Gomez to be nervous about making the run-off.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Impact of Healthcare Bill Failure

Passing bills is harder than opposing them. It’s easy for a congressman to find something they don’t like in a bill. Congressmen will get a lot more constituent opposition when they vote yes than when they vote no. Republicans are finding it hard to govern on the big stuff.

I don’t know if the GOP caucus is more ideologically diverse than the Democratic one, but Democrats have more of a tendency to fall in line behind leadership than Republicans do. I think it comes back to Democrats believing in collectivism and Republicans individualism. Republicans elect people who got things done themselves. Democrats elect people who worked as part of a group.

Not passing the healthcare bill might’ve been the best thing to happen to the GOP. Sure, they’ll take a hit for not getting things done but that’s better than passing a bad bill. I'm not going to judge whether the Republican healthcare bill would be good or bad for America. That won't be important for the 2018 election. What will be is how the voters perceive the bill. Quinnipiac showed 17% in favor and 56% opposed. The Democratic healthcare bill wasn't that unpopular and that killed them at the polls in 2010.

Democrats didn't do that well in 2012 when people knew what was in the bill and did even worse in 2014 when people actually saw it implemented. The lesson should be that a major health insurance overhaul is more likely to go badly than go well. And the Republican plan take an entitlement away from some people. You can win by not giving an entitlement but you can't when you take one away. Republicans need to accept that Obamacare is here and any alternative would be replacing Obamacare. Democrats had the advantage of replacing nothing and that went bad for them. The best Republicans can do is change Obamacare using Republican ideas that'd make the law actually work. That'd be unpopular with the GOP base, but if the law is perceived as positive then people outside their base might like it.

There's a lesson here for Republicans and it's not one they want to hear. It extends to tax reform. Republicans believe in smaller government and you get there by lowering taxes. But here's the thing. The people paying most of the Federal income taxes are rich. The top 1% pays 46% of all Federal income taxes and the top 20% pay 85%. The top 1% "only" earn 17% of all income. So they pay a disproportionate share of income taxes. If Republicans lower income taxes the people who pay them, the top 20%, would get the benefit. You can't cut taxes for people who don't pay them.

And cutting taxes for the rich is unpopular. If you're cutting taxes for 20% of people the other 80% are going to be unhappy and the 80% will always have more votes than the 20%. Doing anything that helps wealthier people is going to make Republicans look bad and they'll suffer at the polls. And really rich people aren't complaining too much. At least publicly. This is heresy to some Republicans. They believe that cutting taxes is always a good idea. Republicans don't need to raise taxes. They can cut taxes but they better be able to sell that they aren't just cutting taxes for the rich.

Democrats are in the minority in congress because they didn't adapt their ideology to what the voter wanted. If Republicans fail to do that, they'll suffer in 2018.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trump Predicts Doom if AHCA Doesn't Pass

I'm trying to understand Donald Trump's thought behind this statement. Is Trump threatening them with primary challenges? It's beyond imaginable if the President is threatening members of his own party with primary challenges if they don't support him. But Trump is Trump. The problem is that the idea is ill conceived. Donald Trump has no organization with candidates, money, and volunteers. I can't imagine Trump finding good candidates and then setting up an organization to beat Republicans.

Is he telling them that America will blame them for blowing something so great they'll elect Democrats? While that seems more plausible than a President threatening people in his own party it isn't clearly thought out. Even if not passing this bill would lead to a Democratic wave, Democrats aren't taking more than 40-50 seats in a landslide. That's not many of them since there are 241 Republican seats. And there really aren't that many vulnerable Republicans.

Most likely there isn't thought behind it. Trump believes the bill is great because he backs it and most people in America love him. So anyone who doesn't support him will lose because America will hate them.


I guess this answers the question. Trump probably doesn’t even know if there are 10 Democratic senators up for re-election, let alone which ones. He doesn't know if Republicans could beat 10 Democrats. He just knows that whatever he’s for is great and America will reward them if they support it. It is conceivable Republicans could win those 10 seats because Democrats have so many senators up in swing seats but it's unlikely that could happen.

Voters don't usually reward a party for passing a couple of bills. Voters imagine they'll pass a perfect bill and are usually disappointed by the bills' failures. And those are the supporters. Opponents are really energized by a bill passing.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Could Jimmy Gomez Miss the CA-34 Run-Off?

When Xavier Becerra resigned his congressional seat it appeared that stars aligned for assemblyman Jimmy Gomez to take it. L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo decided not to run and endorsed Gomez. Gomez got endorsements from politicians,, labor unions, and Planned Parenthood. Take it home. We're done.

Not so fast. Special elections are low turn out races, typically attracting 10%-20% of registered voters. The smaller the electorate the easier it is for candidates to rally a small amount of voters to the polls. We have VBM returns for the race. Only about 2% of registered voters have voted. Since even in a poor turnout special election 10% will turn out, this is only somewhere between 10 and 20% of the voters.

The District is 58% Democratic and 9% Republican but the VBMs are 58% Democratic and 14% Republican so far. Since this is the only election on the ballot, they are turning out to vote in this election. There is only one Republican on the ballot, while there are 19 Democrats. If William Morrison gets 15% of the vote he should be one of the candidates to go to the two person run-off.

Registered voters are 49% Latino/16% Asian but VBMs are 36% Asian/26% Latino. I don’t know the ethnicity of everyone on the ballot but it looks like 15 Latinos, 5 Whites, 1 African-American, and 2 Asians. The two Asians are Robert Lee Ahn and Steven Mac make the run off. Mac is a county prosecutor. If the Asian voters are voting for the Asian candidates one should easily get at least 15%.

Does Jimmy Gomez get the rest? Not so fast. Bernie Sanders won the district and three candidates are claiming to be cut from the Sanders cloth, including Arturo Carmona, Sanders’ deputy political director during the presidential campaign. Actor Danny Glover is endorsing him. The LA Times predicts Gomez will make the run off. I’m not ready to predict he won’t but I see the possibility that he won’t. If that happens it'll be a huge upset.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Democrats Challenging Southern California Republicans

Democrats have had the good fortune to pick up Republican congressional seats in San Diego, Palm Springs, Riverside, and Ventura county, places they haven't traditionally challenged the GOP. Now they're trying to pick up the next tier of Republican seats in Orange County. Like those, Democrats have no real bench of legislators or local politicians to rely on. They've usually not even bothered to recruit, leaving the races to anyone who can get their name on the ballot.

These some dude Democrats have never been able to raise money. A case in point is Doug Applegate, Darrell Issa's 2016 challenger for his North County San Diego based seat. Applegate raised almost nothing before the June primary. He finished close to Issa there and then the money poured in. He ended up raising $2 million. I'm guessing that little of that was due to his fundraising ability. It was a mix of PAC money, Democratic leadership raising money, and Internet donations. As the Sanders campaign showed there is a lot of money, even in small donations, if you can motivate people.

The Social Justice Warriors of the left are energized with Donald Trump in the White House and they see opportunity in Southern California. Democrat Harley Rouda is challenging Republican Dana Rohrabacher in a Fullerton based congressional seat. Rouda is a business man with no political experience. That's the type of candidate Democrats will have to run since they lack a legislative bench. Rouda lives in Laguna Beach. That's actually in the district. While a candidate who is from the district they seek to represent might seem obvious to some, it's been a struggle for Democrats. Several of their 2016 candidates weren't from the districts they sought to represent. Rouda has already seen strong fundraising and he could get a lot of internet donations without having to do much himself.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Healthcare Bill May Lead to Republican Election Losses

The healthcare bill in congress is likely to lead to dire electoral consequences for Republicans. I write this because the bill has been depicted as benefitting the rich and result in much higher expense for everyone else. If that’s what happens or people believe will happen, Republicans will be punished.

There’s an argument out there that if Republicans fail to pass a healthcare bill or the one they pass has flaws then Democrats will share the blame. After all, the ACA was their bill originally. It’s flaws are due to them. Democrats spent President Obama’s Presidency taking credit for any positives in the economy while at the same time blaming President Bush for any negatives. People assumed that eventually Democrats would “own the economy” because at some point it’d only be their actions that were affecting it. They never stopped blaming George Bush and the public accepted that.

I disagree with that reasoning. First, the press is usually going to depict Democrats positively and Republicans negatively. They supported the idea that the economy was “all Bush’s fault.” Republicans won’t be so lucky on healthcare. Articles are out already that they are ruining it and they haven’t done anything. Democrats were actually held accountable for a lot of their actions and didn’t fare well during the Obama years. Even if America didn’t blame them for the economy they blamed them for other things.

Obamacare is now in effect, a far different situation from 2009. Back then Democrats were taking no government involvement and created a system with a lot of government involvement. The baseline was nothing. The baseline here is real.

I’m aware of Obamacare’s negatives. It was promised as a way to control health insurance costs and premiums have skyrocketed. People who don’t get subsidies avoid the exchanges because the policies on the exchanges are pricey, have high deductibles, and cover fewer doctors and hospitals. Insurers keep pulling out of Obamacare exchanges and that’s going to lead to, in some counties, one or no insurers on the exchange. Prices will rise even higher or people won’t be able to get a policy at all.

That said, there are plenty of people either getting their insurance through the exchange or in Medicaid expansion. In 2009 Republicans could be against these handouts. No one was getting them, so people didn’t have a problem. Once people get handouts, however, they get very angry if you take them away. They don’t care if it’s a bad plan or if it’s collapsing. They want their free/discounted stuff.

Democrats have created entitlements going back to FDR and Social Security. The philosophy has been that it didn’t matter whether they did the entitlement well or if it was sustainable. Once people had the entitlement Republicans wouldn’t dare take it away and would have to fix it. That’s true. It doesn’t matter how negative people are about Obamacare. Take something away from people and they’ll vote you out of office.

This plan is getting savaged in the media. They don’t believe Republicans when they say this plan will be better for people. The Democratic plan was treated well and Democrats got creamed at the polls. I can’t see how hearing that your health insurance will either go away or become a lot more expensive won’t influence people.

The Republican plan repeals the Obamacare taxes. That fits Republican philosophy but doesn’t fit where America is now, because these taxes are on people perceived as rich. It doesn’t matter if these people aren’t paying taxes and the rich pay a huge share. The perception is that they’re paying too much and the rich aren’t paying their fair share. While Republicans might get support for not passing new taxes on the rich they won’t get much for repealing taxes on the rich.

The perception will be that the voter will have worse and more expensive healthcare while the rich will benefit. That’ll be a disaster for Republicans at the polls in 2018.

Is there a way to avoid it? Republicans would have to propose a completely different plan for it to be one people view as positive rather than negative. Not passing a plan at all might be better for them but if Obamacare continues to implode I doubt they’ll let the Republicans off the hook for not stopping it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Schwarzenegger for Senate?

Politico has an article up with speculation that Arnold Schwarzenegger could run for the US Senate. It's been widely believed that Schwarzenegger was done with politics but he has gotten into a high profile feud with Donald Trump. And he seems to enjoy it. If he wants to continue that, he has no better platform than to run for the Senate. Well, the better platform would be to be in the US Senate. Consider how things have changed in the last eight years.

2010 Democrats: Arnold is an awful evil Republican
2018 Democrats: Anyone who could stick it to Trump is worth a look

2010 Republicans: Arnold is apostate
2018 Republicans: He'd be better than a Democrat. Why not?

I don't think Schwarzenegger could beat Feinstein but he could easily make top two and face off with her in November 2018. If Feinstein were to retire Democrats don't have anyone with a profile like Kamala Harris. Gavin Newsom, John Chiang, and Antonio Villaraigosa could abandon the governor's race but they couldn't transfer their huge war chests. Congressmen like Raul Ruiz or Ami Bera could run but neither has much of a statewide profile. And if Arnold ran as NPP Democrats who won't vote Republican might for him.

Hillary Clinton's Policy Free Campaign

Wesleyan University has a new study and blames Hillary Clinton's loss partially on "Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests." It's true that her slogan #Imwithher was about the candidate and not the voters.

Clinton couldn't run on issues like Barack Obama did. Obama was running against a 3rd term of George W. Bush. Clinton was running for Obama's third term. George H.W. Bush ran for Reagan's third term. SNL made fun of him for "stay the course," but it worked. Al Gore ran for Clinton's third term but then tried to distance himself from it. It created a jumble, but he did win the popular vote. John McCain was DOA because of George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton had no policy differences with Barack Obama until she came out against the Trans Pacific Partnership. People liked Obama and might've supported him for a third term if he ran. What they didn't want was someone who supported his policies that wasn't him. They didn't want a Washington insider. Yet Clinton was a Washington insider who supported Obama's policies. The server scandal and Goldman Sachs speeches reinforced all her negatives.

If she couldn't run on the issues or experience all she had was the woman card and Trump is awful. Clinton has never been comfortable as feminist icon and was clumsy with the woman card. Her efforts to paint Trump as awful led to her "Deplorable" speech. And there were enough people who disliked Trump enough to give her the popular vote. Just not where it counted.

Bernie Sanders ran a very different campaign. He had no problem running against Obama, even if he didn't say it explicitly, and the establishment insiders that Barack Obama was part of. Sanders said the economy wasn't working for people. No one said it was Barack Obama's economy he was talking about but the President owns the economy. Sanders is depicted too far to the left to win, but his far left stances were mixed with populism and struck all cords with the angry voter. Black and Hispanic Clinton voters might've stayed home but that wouldn't have cost Sanders states like New York and California. In the Rust Belt, however, he could've gotten white working class voters who felt that no Democrats was talking about the issues the way Trump and Sanders were and won the states Clinton didn't.

Clinton is derided for not going to Michigan and Wisconsin but I don't think that would've helped her. She spent time in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, and Florida and couldn't win the white working class votes in any of them. She wasn't going to win them anyway. Sanders could've won just enough to win the electoral college. Clearly Clinton couldn't.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Democrats: Vote For Us Because Trump is a Jerk

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has unveiled the Democratic strategy for winning the 2018 election:

"The way I told my members: It's like telling your friend the guy she's dating is a jerk."

I have to say that this strategy is better than treating voters like they are racist, sexist homophobes. Hillary had a few more insults in her deplorables speech but you get the idea. No, this isn't that bad but it's almost as bad.

They'll be patronizing voters with a "we know what you need better than you do" attitude. That's certainly not unusual for Democrats but people don't like to be patronized. In fact, that's one of the reasons they lost these voters in the first place. Democrats really need to get their head around the idea that people who didn't vote for him knew what they wanted and Democrats weren't offering it. If you want to win their vote you need to offer them a vision that'll make their lives better than what the Republicans offered.

They shouldn't assume the voters will turn on Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton made her major selling point that people should vote for her because Trump was a horrible person. That didn't work well. Yet Democrats can't seem to get their heads around the idea that some Trump voters supported him and still do even after all the revelations. The polls are saying they aren't disappointed.

While some people will vote Democratic because the President disappoints them, there were many people who didn't vote for Trump who still voted Republican down ballot. So these people already didn't want Trump.House Republicans had more votes than Donald Trump, while House Democrats had 4 million fewer. So disappointment with Donald Trump might not be enough of a sell.

If Democrats don't give people a reason to vote for them and just hope people do so to vote against Trump, they may be disappointed with the election result. Again.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Why Democrats Won't Beat Devin Nunes

California Republican congressman Devin Nunes has stepped into a hornet's next with his comments about Russia and the Trump campaign. These comments have drawn the ire of Democrats and Nunes is today's public enemy number one.

I say today's public enemy number one because many Republicans have drawn the ire of Democrats over the last two months and the list of Republicans in congress that Democrats want to bounce is a long one. Here's the thing though. The individual that runs against Devin Nunes in 2018 is going to have a huge problem problem raising money and recruiting volunteers. Some people think of California as being a dark blue state, and it is, but a lot of that blue is in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles metro. There are Democratic voters in other areas and Democrats have won a number of seats.

It'll be harder to win more. Before the 2000 election Democrats had a 27-25 edge over Republicans in California congressional districts. They had a good year that year and, after they drew the lines in 2001, Democrats soon had a 33-20 edge over Republicans. They managed to grow that to 34-19 before redistricting in 2012. There were a lot of opportunities for Democrats that year but they had a problem. Some of these opportunities were on Republican turf, in places Democrats hadn't competed. Democrats didn't have the bench of elected officials. And it can be difficult to win an election with a newbie who has never run before. Because the Democratic party wasn't very organized in these areas, they didn't have the organization to support candidates.

So in 2012 Democrats ran doctors against Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack, a community college trustees in a new seat in Riverside, and an assemblywoman from outside the district in an open Ventura County seat. And they won these four seats. Of course they also lost competitive races where they ran an astronaut and the head of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. What that showed were that in areas where Democrats were moving in they could win without a strong infrastructure.

Now Democrats are at a 39-14 advantage. And yet there are still opportunities. Steve Knight's Antelope Valley district looked like a good one to go after. Yet Democrats couldn't find a good candidate who lived in the district, so they brought Bryan Caforio over from Beverly Hills. They challenged Jeff Denham with a beekeeper Denham had beaten easily in 2014. They challenged David Valadao with Emilio Huerta, son of United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta. Huerta actually lived in an adjacent district. And he lost in the primary to someone the Democrats didn't recruit. Democrats had never bothered to recruit against Republican Darrell Issa. So retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate was seen as a name on the ballot. He didn't raise any money until his surprisingly strong showing in the primary.Democrats didn't win any of those seats, even though Hillary Clinton won all of them. At least some of that is attributable to having weak candidates and weak campaign infrastructure.

And we haven't even gotten to Devin Nunes' district yet. His district wasn't one of the four Democrats challenged in during 2016 or one of the other three Hillary Clinton won. No, his district was one of seven Donald Trump won. Nunes' district is so Republican that Democrats have never bothered to try to run a campaign. Not just for congress but also for the assembly. In 2010 Democrats didn't have a candidate. So people needed to write in candidates in the Democratic primary. Nunes got more votes than Democrat Ruben Macareno. In the subsequent two elections the Democratic candidate was someone from the far away Silicon Valley. Winning in districts is usually helped by having a candidate with strong local ties and Democrats have never found one for the 22nd. The Democrats in the district have never been interested in supporting the carpetbaggers who've run there. That'll likely be the case in 2018.

This isn't a knock on the Democrats. They've gone from 27 to 39 seats over the last 16 years. If you keep making gains you'll eventually run into areas where you're not capable of competing. And yet they've won a few seats in areas where they didn't use to be capable. And they challenge the four Republicans listed above with better candidates in 2018. They'll need that to win there, but Nunes' district is one where they have no candidate and no support structure. They don't have a chance.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Press Finds Out Why People Voted Trump

During the election it seemed that many of the articles focused on Trump voters being the deplorables that Hillary Clinton depicted them as. Since the election reporters have been doing a good job at depicting why traditionally Democratic voters and Republican voters who didn't like Trump supported him. I think it's important, at least here in LA, where so many people I know have no idea why people voted for Trump. Maybe they'll read articles like this.

I'd like to see articles about why suburban districts like Mimi Walters' CA-45 swung toward Clinton at the Presidential level and why those people still voted Republican down ballot. Do they still plan to keep voting for Walters in the future or should she be worried?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Could the Trump Resistance be a Left Wing Tea Party?


Can we go home now?

No? Okay, first a little history to show how different these movements are. The Tea Party started when Rick Santelli made his famous rant on CNBC on February 19, 2009. That was 30 days after Barack Obama took office. There was no hint of opposition to him at that point. We are still a few days away from 30 days into Donald Trump's term. The organized resistance started before Trump took office and showed up in the women's march a day after Trump was inaugurated. So right away Democrats appear to be ahead of Republicans. Being faster to have this much resistance might be good, as they already have their supporters in place. It might not because the Republican wave built up over time with people jumping on board when they were ready. The left runs the risk of not sustaining this movement. A lot of people won't be active for two years. Occupy also had a huge number of supporters faster than the Tea Party.

Republicans did meet the night Barack Obama was inaugurated to discuss how to respond to him and make him a one term President. This is normal. Did anyone think Republicans weren't going to try to win the Presidency back in 2012? That Republicans weren't going to oppose policies they had always opposed? Opposition in congress was light at this point. All of Barack Obama's cabinet nominees sailed through. Most were confirmed by voice vote. A voice vote is taken when no one objects to what's on the floor. Only two nominees were confirmed with less than 75 votes. Kathleen Sebelius got 65 votes and Timothy Geithner was confirmed 60-34. Almost every Democrat has voted against a little less than half of Donald Trump's nominees.

At first, Republicans were working with Barack Obama on the stimulus. When they objected to tax cuts for people who didn't pay taxes, Barack Obama told Eric Cantor, "I won." It was basically, "Vote yes or no on my bill and go away." Over the next several months, Republicans started to become uniform in their opposition to Democratic legislation. They say it was because the legislation contained too many things for them to vote yes to. Republicans were working on the healthcare bill for some time before being discouraged from doing so by the party base. Democrats have indicated they'll vote no on Republican bills already. Will Republicans make the bills so poisonous that no Democrat would think of voting for them or will there be more outreach to Democrats than Democrats did in 2009? Regardless, Democrats have put up their wall of opposition earlier. That might or might not be better for them.

Another comparison people have made is the town halls. The Tea Party was active in them in August 2009 and Democrats seem to be gearing up for them. Many of the loudest 2009 town halls were in Democratic swing districts. Democrats have made a lot of noise at town halls for Congressmen Tom McClintock and Jason Chaffetz. Both are in very safe Republican districts. If they want to take back the House they need to organize in districts belonging to Pat Meehan and Steve Knight. They may well do that and the only reason they've gone after McClintock and Chaffetz may be that they were the ones having town halls.

The Tea Party didn't start out as a movement trying to win elections. In fact, their trajectory was to slowly get larger and larger until the November 3, 2009 special election in NY-23. Local New Yorkers organized behind the Conservative Party candidate and he lost. The first big victory for Republicans during this period was the January 2010 Massachusetts special senate election. Again this started small locally in Massachusetts and got larger because they reached out to Tea Parties throughout the country.

Democrats appear ready to start organizing to win elections now. Starting earlier should be better but they may just be a lot of people organizing and not enough people voting. The Tea Party didn't have a goal of winning elections. They won one and, after the fact, they looked brilliant. Democrats have had lower enthusiasm at almost every election since 2009. Are they less enthusiastic or were they less enthusiastic because they controlled the White House?

The anti-Trump movement could be a force at the ballot box. Enthusiasm is better than non-enthusiasm. They just aren't following the Tea Party trajectory.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump and the Mid-Terms

Most mid-terms go badly for the President's party. His supporters become either become complacent or disappointed. His opponents are energized. Opposing someone or something is a unifier even if all the opposition don't agree on why they object or what they'd do differently. We don't know if the normal rules apply to Donald Trump. We thought they should apply to Trump in 2016 and many didn't. Things which would've sunk any other candidate didn't sink Trump. He won despite having a low favorability score and a low percentage of the vote. Despite Trump being more unfavorably than Hillary Clinton, and getting less votes, congressional Republicans still won the nationwide vote.

Many voters voted against Trump in 2016 and it didn't hurt the GOP. Republicans down ballot didn't benefit much in areas where Trump greatly improved over Mitt Romney and weren't hurt in many areas where Trump underperformed Romney. Voters didn't associate Trump with congressional Republicans as strongly as voters have in the past. Republican congressional candidates actually got more votes than Donald Trump. That didn't even happen for Democrats in 2008 even though they got a higher percentage of the two party vote than Barack Obama.

Democrats got walloped in both of Obama's mid-terms. The last time one party had two mid-terms where they did at least 3.5% worse than they did in the Presidential years was the GOP in 1970 and 1974. That was a time when the south was so heavily Democratic that Republicans barely competed. Democrats had a systematic advantage in the House vote. Do Republicans have one in mid-terms now? Maybe, although it's likely that they don't.

While voters didn't strongly associate Republican congressional candidates with Trump in 2016 they may not be able to escape that in 2018. Before Trump was an outsider but now Trump is in government, right alongside congressional Republicans. Congressmen don't usually oppose the President if he's from their own party and even when they do people don't always pay attention. Most people see Donald Trump's immigration order. How many know which Republicans oppose it?

Donald Trump has already gotten the opposition mobilized against him. It took Barack Obama months to get this level of opposition to him. As the Tea Party showed a motivated opposition wins elections. If Trump keeps doing things that stir up this level of opposition Republicans will pay a price.

Monday, January 23, 2017

From The Ground Up

Frontline has a documentary called "Divided States of America" on the Obama presidency. They cover the 2009-2010 period and the rise of the Tea Party unevenly. They spend a lot of time talking about racism and the birther movement. Both of those are real things, although I don’t think they warrant as much time as the PBS documentary does.

"Divided States of America" mostly interviews Democrats. The Republicans who got the most screen time were former Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. While those two can provide something valuable about the 2009-2016 period the film covers, a large part of this era is about the anti-establishment sentiment. The people who opposed insiders like those two were ignored in the film. There's very little insight into the Tea Party.

In "Divided States of America" the Republicans look unreasonable, ridiculous, and people who have no real motivation for doing what they do other than spite. There’s an occasional quote from a Tea Party congressman, but mostly just a line that reinforces something. When they want a Republican point of view they have Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin yelling and complaining on their radio shows. The audio they throw in often could be these two reacting to anything and they don’t actually make an argument for anything. They do sprinkle a handful of Sarah Palin quotes from speeches.

After working on it for years, I’m finally finishing my documentary, now called "From The Ground Up." It covers the 2009-2010 period but from a very different perspective. In fact, the only person I interviewed who is interviewed in their documentary was Eric Cantor and none of my Cantor interview made my cut. There are several events we both cover but often from different perspectives.

"From The Ground Up" explores the 2009-2010 period as the origin of the angry voter. Most of the first two thirds of the film is told from the perspective of the people who founded the Tea Parties and volunteered with the Tea Parties. Most of you will have never heard of any of these people and what they did in 2009-2010. There’s praise and criticism but mostly the film is told in their own words. The Scott Brown, Rand Paul, and Trey Gowdy stories are all told from the perspective of people who volunteered. They are undoubtedly presenting only one point of view but one that needs to get told.

The last third of the film centers on the candidates. Most of the candidates weren’t very well known at the time and aren’t very well known now. Their stories haven’t been told either. In some cases I do have candidates telling their own story, because that’s an important perspective too.

Not one person I interviewed ever mentioned Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin. Four people do mention Sarah Palin, although they don’t mention anything she said or did but mostly it’s, “Sarah Palin came to one event we had.” None of those three are in "From The Ground up." That’s not to say they didn’t say or do things during this period that impacted people. I interviewed Paul Ryan for the film and none of that interview is in there either.

We are putting the finishing touches on the film now and I plan to share the film with audiences this year. I don’t know when yet. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2016 Congressional v. Presidential Vote

I've been waiting for the great folks at Daily Kos Elections to calculate the Presidential vote in all 50 states before doing any comparison. They've done 46 states and haven't calculated Pennsylvania, Florida, Kansas, and North Carolina. I have the numbers for Pennsylvania and Florida from another source, so I'm left with only Kansas and North Carolina. While these states are of interest the other 48 are enough to take a look.

1. I used districts that had one Republican and one Democrat congressional candidate. In addition to the districts where both major parties didn't run a candidate, I also excluded Louisiana. Louisiana had their jungle primary on election day and the elections had multiple members of one, or both, parties. It wouldn't be an apples to apples comparison.

2. I used the two party vote. This excludes third parties from both the congressional and Presidential elections. This allows a comparison of how Republicans did against Democrats, treating third party voters as the same as those who didn't vote. I did this for consistency. Some races had third party candidates. Others didn't. I didn't include Utah districts because they were the only ones where Evan McMullin got a high percentage of the vote. McMullin voters likely voted heavily for Republicans down ballot, as Hillary Clinton's percentage was fairly close to the percentage Democratic congressional candidates got. So Trump-Clinton numbers would make the districts look more Democratic than they do.

The districts in the first column are those where the two candidates got between 43% and 57% of the vote and the Republican congressional won the seat. The second group are the same Presidential and the Democrat won the seat. The next two groups are the remaining districts where Republicans won and Democrats won respectively. If Hillary Clinton got less than 43% but the Democrat still won it's in the second group.

The first group consists overwhelmingly of districts where the Republican congressional candidate outperformed Donald Trump. That many would outperform him isn't that much of a surprise since all the Republicans in the list won their district. That said I didn't expect that many to outperform Trump and by as much as they do. Thirty-four of them did at least 7 points better. There are a lot of suburban districts in this column. Again, that's not a surprise. Trump got over 57% in many rural districts and Clinton got over that in many urban districts. So those districts are more likely to be in the third and fourth group. A big question for the future is whether Democratic congressional candidates can come close to matching Hillary Clinton in the future.

The districts that Democrats won where Clinton got between 43% and 57% of the vote is smaller. There are more districts where the Republican outperformed Trump, or the Democrat underperformed Clinton than in the group Republicans won. Clinton did win most of these, but it'll be interesting to see if some of these Democrats vote with Republicans in House votes. Their districts are more Trumpy than Republican. Chart here

Monday, January 9, 2017

California Hires Eric Holder To Do Nothing

The California legislature has hired Eric Holder’s law firm $25k a month for the next three months to defend them against Trump. Most people hire lawyers when they have legal work to give them. Donald Trump has yet to take office. When he does, he may take executive action and there may also be laws passed by congress. Whether any of these actions will warrant the legislature to engage a law firm is unknown.

States sued the Obama administration over things that the administration required them to do. It's possible that the Trump administration will roll back regulations or repeal laws. You can sue the Federal government for requiring your state to enact an environmental law. You can't sue them for repealing that law if it doesn't require the state to do anything. So we don't know if the laws passed by congress will warrant any legal work.

So what we have here is a legislature is fighting a battle against a non-existent opponent (until January 20) over non-existent laws. And spending money to do it. Kudos.

Monday, January 2, 2017

California District Results 2012 vs. 2016 and 2014 vs. 2016

The linked spreadsheet compares the 2012 vs. 2016 results for California congressional, senate, and assembly districts. Any district where a Republican and a Democrat didn't run against each other in 2012 and 2016 isn't included. I also included a comparison of 2014 vs. 2016 congressional results.

Overall, there was similar improvement across the board when comparing 2012 to 2016. Congressional Democrats improved by 2.2 points, while senate Democrats improved by 2.8 points, and assembly Democrats by 1.7 points. That's a good showing but Hillary Clinton improved on Barack Obama's two party performance by 4.2 points. (Note: Clinton's two party percentage was 66.1% compared to Obama's 61.9%. The margin improved by double 4.2, 8.4 points) So Democrats didn't do as well as they could have. Democrats did have some districts with big gains, e.g. CA-49, 2, and 53, but not enough in any Republican held district to take it. There were a few places where the Republican congressional candidate did better than 2012, but there doesn't seem to be much commonality to the districts.

Some people don't feel Republicans did that well in 2014 because the party lost a congressional district. The chart shows the difference between 2014 and 2016 was dramatic. The average Democrat did 5.6 points better. The average margin in the 37 districts where a Republican ran against a Democrat each time increased from Democrats by 6.6 to Democrats by 17.8. Yet, these two very different results ended with the two parties winning the same districts each time. This wasn't due to gerrymandering creating safe seats. California lines are drawn by an independent commission. In 2014, won 7 districts by 5.4 points or less. That won most of them by much greater margins in 2016. Had Republicans just done a little better in 2014 and taken those districts they probably would've lost almost all of them in 2016.

Democrats picked up three assembly seats in 2016, but two of those AD-65 and 66 were ones they won in 2012, but lost in 2014. In fact, the Democrat did worse in 2016 in AD-66 than he did in 2012.