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.