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.