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.