Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain Changed My Life

That's not hyperbole. I wasn't very interested in politics in 1999 and was disillusioned. The Clinton impeachment was an embarrassment. Someone told me about John McCain. I'd never heard of him, but I got excited when I found out about him. I volunteered for my first political campaign.

I had no idea how much the odds were against us. I made calls for the California primary and so many people told me they were voting Bush because Bush had the endorsements. They were doing what they were told. I celebrated when McCain won New Hampshire and the crap the Bushies pulled in South Carolina left me very angry. I head a grudge against George Bush. I regret that since George is a actually a great guy and didn’t deserve my animosity.

I was actually a few feet away from John McCain when he gave his concession speech.

Like a lot of people the Bush years left me disillusioned. I was unhappy with the Republican party and couldn’t think of any reason to vote Republican.

I got excited when John McCain decided to run for President again. He was a reason I still voted Republican. I signed up for the campaign in June 2007. The campaign wasn’t that well organized and I didn’t hear anything from them until November. I got an email. They needed 3 convention delegates and 3 alternates for each California congressional district. Was I interested in being a convention delegate?

Me? A delegate? Don’t they reserve that for big donors, politicians, and party insiders? I’d been involved with one campaign and no one knew me from that. I hadn’t even been involved in this campaign. I hailed from a very Democratic district. They probably couldn’t come up with 6 names and if they didn’t have 6 names John McCain couldn’t win the convention delegates. Yes! Yes! Yes, I’ll do it.

What does a delegate do? Well, not much at all anymore but I didn’t know that.

I volunteered and did some calls over the next few months. I was at the Cat and the Fiddle with all the other McCainites on Super Tuesday night. McCain won a lot that night and also won California. He didn’t win every district, however, so I had to wait to find out if I’d be a delegate.

He did and I was.

What should I do with this newfound status? For some insane reason I decided that since my status would likely open doors closed to others I’d get a camera and shoot a documentary about the state of the Republican party and where it was headed.

The documentary would be part of my life for the next 10 years. I met a number of politicians, including Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and my hero Dr. Tom Coburn. I never did get an interview with John McCain. So I never actually spoke with him face to face.

I didn’t just shoot a documentary about the 2010 election. I became involved in politics. Over the next several years I volunteered on numerous campaigns and became a political nerd. I analyzed and studied elections and blogged about it.

I wonder what my political interest would’ve been if not for John McCain. So much of my life changed because I was a McCain volunteer/convention delegate.

John McCain and I never spoke to one another, but that wasn’t necessary for him to change my life. It was who he was as a man that changed it.

R.I.P. John McCain

Friday, June 15, 2018

California Primary: Senator

The Senate primary resulted in two Democrats advancing just as it did in 2016. That year Democrats got 63.9% of the vote to 28.6% for Republicans. This year, as of 6/14, it’s Democrats 62.5%-34.2%. In two party percentages the Democratic share dropped from 69.1% to 64.6%. In 2016, Kamala Harris got 40% of the vote, Loretta Sanchez got 19%, and other Democrats got 5%. This year Dianne Feinstein got 44% of the vote, Kevin De Leon got 12%, and other Democrats got 6%.Even though De Leon got 7% less than Loretta Sanchez, and Republicans got nearly 6% more votes the GOP vote was once again spread thin and no one topped De Leon.

Kamala Harris is seen as more progressive than Loretta Sanchez and won in a landslide 62%-38% in November. Some people could look at that and assume De Leon has a chance.

They’d be wrong.

Harris didn’t run as the more progressive choice. She ran as the attorney general who fought for Californians and won in battles against Wells Fargo, among others. Sanchez didn’t really run to Harris’ right. Harris ran as the establishment pick and Sanchez as the insurgent. Granted, it wasn’t exactly an insurgency that caught fire.

Dianne Feinstein is even of an establishment pick than Harris was. She has a long history with the Democratic party and with the California voters. Hence, why she did a few pointes better than Harris did even though Democrats got a lower percentage of the votes.

De Leon, on the other hand, did much worse than Sanchez. His 12% was less than 2/3 of her 19%.

How will De Leon do in November? It’s possible that De Leon could pick up the lion’s share of the 6% of voters who voted for other Democrats. They may be protest voters who don’t like Dianne Feinstein. Unfortunately for him, that’d put Feinstein up by around 45%-17% or 72%-28% when translated as the full electorate.

What about the voters who didn’t vote for a Democrat?

Loretta Sanchez lost in June by 21 points and in November by 24 points. She sort of split the voters who didn’t vote for her or Harris. I say sort of because there were a lot more general election voters than primary voters. Each of them picked up a lot of new voters.

The exit poll tells us that while Harris won Democrats 68%-32% and independents 62%-38%, Sanchez actually won Republicans 56%-44%. That doesn’t surprise me. Sanchez was seen as the more centrist choice, although Harris running a rather non-ideological campaign probably helped her a bit with Republicans.

The exit poll says that the Presidential race consisted of 47% Democrats/23% Republicans/30% independents, but the Senate race was 50% Democrats/19% Republicans/31% independents.

Most of the other Senate races had vote drop-offs of 0-2% from the Presidential to Senate races. California had 14% less votes. So a lot of Trump voters probably passed on the race.

In top two candidates will usually go after voters who voted for someone other than themselves in the primary. In a crowded field like this one, 56% of the voters voted for someone other than Dianne Feinstein. Unfortunately for Kevin De Leon most of those voters voted Republican. One of the central themes of De Leon’s campaign is that Dianne Feinstein isn’t fighting Donald Trump and the Republicans hard enough. So it’s hard to see what De Leon’s appeal to the Trump voter will be.

“You’re a sexist, racist, homophobe. Vote for me.”

I don’t see that going over. In fact, any appeal to voters who voted Republican in the primary would be contrary to De Leon’s brand. He’s ceding those voters to Dianne Feinstein.

Not only is it difficult to see De Leon winning but I have a hard time seeing how he even gets 25% of the vote.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

California Primary: Governor

As many of you know, California doesn't count the ballots quickly. Complain if you want but there are a bunch of reasons. Because of that I'm going to post about the primary slowly. If there are conclusions that can only be drawn after the outcome is clear then I'll wait.

Let's start at the top of the ticket. Gavin Newsom got 33.5% of the vote. John Cox finished second at 26.2%. They'll both advance to November. Antonio Villaraigosa was a distant third at 13.2%. Travis Allen was fourth at 9.6%. John Chiang finished with 9.1%. There were a few reporters and pundits who insisted that Antonio Villaraigosa was going to make top two. After all, California is a Democratic state, Villaraigosa was fairly well known, and was spending a lot of money. The media is very caught up in the idea that money in politics is bad and thus every dollar a candidate spends means votes. Except it doesn't. Money can help but it's not that important.

Yet they're still caught up in it. So Villaraigosa didn't spend the money early enough. Or he made a mistake in who he was attacking. No, he shouldn't have gone after John Chiang. Chiang didn't have much support. Getting some of his voters wouldn't have helped. I've heard, somewhat derisively, that Donald Trump's Tweet did Villaraigosa in. None of that is true. Republicans got between 39.3% and 41.7% in three races with no incumbent. In three races where there was an incumbent they got between 34.5% and 37.3%. There was no incumbent here but Republicans were closer to the open seat share at 37.4%. No matter what Villaraigosa did he wasn't taking Republican votes. Spending more wouldn't have convinced Republican voters to vote for someone with a D next to their name.

President Trump's Tweet may have helped John Cox gain a few points but those weren't Villaraigosa voters. People influenced by a Trump Tweet aren't going to vote for a Democrat. Cox and Travis Allen got 35.8% of the vote. If they split that evenly they both would've gotten 17.9%. If Trump did help John Cox he took votes from Travis Allen and prevented Villaraigosa from finishing behind both Cox and Allen. Villaraigosa was only going to make top two if he had gotten enough Newsom voters that he would've beaten the Lieutenant Governor. That wasn't going to happen.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Things to Know Before the California Primary

The California primary is tomorrow and you're very interested in it. I'm assuming that because you're reading this. You should be getting all your Vote By Mail data from Political Data here. Shout out to Paul Mitchell and the team there. They provide data that's invaluable.

Gavin Newsom and John Cox will finish first and second in the governor's race. Yes, I know I've written it before but too many people seem to think Antonio Villaraigosa has a shot. He never really did. There are too many Democratic candidates, too few Republicans candidates, and enough Republican voters that Cox will beat Villaraigosa by a comfortable margin. I think Travis Allen will finish ahead of Villaraigosa more likely than not. One thing to watch is the percentage of the vote Democrats and Republicans get. In 2014 it was around 57% Democratic 43% Republican. In 2016 the Presidential and Senate races were around 70% Democratic 30% Republican. I'm thinking it'll be midway between the two. When we see, we'll figure out what it means.

There's not enough information to predict if Kevin de Leon will finish second in the senate race. Republicans have a history of voting for Republicans in top two. Will the Republicans here get as many votes as the Republicans in the governor's race? I say yes, but it's something to watch for. Will Republican votes consolidate behind one candidate, most likely James Bradley? If so, De Leon doesn't advance. So I'll be watching how the total votes compare.

In 2014, any race where Democrats got 50% or more of the two party vote went Democratic in November. If Republicans got 50-55% it was competitive in November. If Republicans got 55%+ they won in November. The 2016 vote was more apples to apples. Whoever won in June won in November. As I mentioned earlier, November 2014 was a Republican election but the primary was even more Republican. November 2016 was a Democratic election but the primary was even more Democratic. That doesn't make it easy to figure out how to translate the primary vote but any district where Republicans get 50-55% should be one to watch.

The possibility of a shutout in a specific district is real, although unlikely. As Paul Mitchell has Tweeted, however, there are enough congressional districts where shutouts are possible that one probably will happen. The districts that most concern people are CA-39, 48, and 49. So watch for those. I'm going to predict that CA-50 is going to have a Democratic shutout. That's Duncan Hunter's district. It's probably too Republican for Democrats to have a shot in November. Hunter, however, has been caught up in a scandal, however, and if a scandal blows up it sometimes doesn't matter how partisan a district is.

A lot has been written about how this year will be a big Democratic wave. And it might be. We should still look at the results in Democratic districts like CA-7. Don't dismiss the idea they could be competitive this year.

The first results usually come in around 8:40 Pacific. These are the vote by mail ballots received before election day. In 2012 and 2014, these were very Republican. In 2016 they weren't. So we don't know if the results will get more Democratic after these are announced. Likewise Democrats did even better than the election day count in the post-election day count in 2012 and 2014. They didn't in 2016. There are a lot of ballots counted after election day. Hopefully the election day ballots will give us an idea the way those will go. I'll try to figure that out Wednesday.

The partisan results changed quite a bit after election day in 2012 and 2014 with Democrats gaining quite a bit. What doesn't change is how individual Democrats or Republicans do. If two Democrats are close for second and third in a district the candidate who is in second place on election day is going to end up in second after all the votes are counted.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Things to Watch For in the California Primary

The primary is only five days away, although 1.6 million ballots have already been received by the counties. That sounds like a lot but 11.6 million ballots were mailed out. In 2016 there were only 10.0 million vote by mail voters and 3.1 million returned ballots. In 2014 there were 2.1 million ballots returned. I don't know how many VBM voters there were then, but there were considerably less. It's not unusual for the bulk of the ballots to be returned in the last few days or on election day.

So far the electorate is 45%D/34%R. That's closer to the 2014 electorate 44%D/36%R than the 2016 that was 49%D/34%R. But it still isn't as Republican as 2014. While an 11 point disadvantage is a bad position to be in Republicans have a larger registration disadvantage than they did even in 2016. Two years ago registration was D+18. It's now D+19. So a more Republican electorate with a less Republican voter pool is a positive sign for them.

Because of top two the primary isn't just will one Republican or one Democrat beat another, but will a party get shutout. Polls are indicating Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox make top two. I'm predicting Republican Travis Allen for third. The Senate race is anyone's guess. Polling has been terrible with most of the polls including only one or two Republicans. The last PPIC poll didn't include any. They included just Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de Leon and were proud of themselves when those candidates finished first and second. Yes, really. Will de Leon finish second? His polling has been lackluster, but the polls have too. He could get anywhere from 8% to 20%. A Republican might consolidate a significant portion of the Republican vote. We just don't know. While it'll be interesting to watch which candidates emerge in contested congressional races what's more interesting is whether one party or the other gets shut out by having none of their candidates finish top two. This is definitely possible for Democrats in CA-39 and 48 and for both parties in CA-49. CA-49 could be two Democrats, two Republicans, or a Republican and a Democrat.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

California Primary VBM Returns

The question I keep asking in this blog is whether November will be a blue wave. That’s not a question I’ll address in this post. The question here is what is going to happen in the California primary, specifically will top two result in Democrats or Republicans getting shut out in key statewide and congressional races.

Don’t pay attention to the two recent polls you’ve seen. Both are garbage, as they don’t reflect the actual electorate. PPIC’s senate poll only includes two candidates and no Republicans. That’s not what’s on the ballot and their poll won’t reflect the actual results because of that.

In 2014 69.4% of the ballots were VBM. This keeps increasing, so the VBM vote should tell us a lot about how people are voting. Fortunately we have nearly a million returned ballots already.

In 2014 VBM ballots were 44.0%D/36.4%R for a Democratic margin of 7.6%. This electorate produced an average statewide two party result of Democrats 56% Republicans 44%. In 2016 the electorate was 49.0%D/33.8%R. This margin of 15.2% produced a Democratic 70%-30% result in the Presidential and Senate vote. Since there were only two races in 2016 the sample size was smaller, The results were fairly consistent.

These two elections give us only two data points so any extrapolation will be guessing. The Republican Presidential primary was irrelevant since Donald Trump had already sewn up the nomination and the Senate race featured no prominent Republican. So while a D+15 electorate probably should have something like a Democratic margin of 61%-39% it was much higher.

The congressional races produced a similar result, although it wasn’t nearly as large. There were 37 districts with at least one Republican and one Democrat on the ballot in both 2014 and 2016. In 2014 these districts had an average result of Democrats 52%-48%. In 2016 it was Democrats 60%-40%. So even with only a 7.6% gain in the electorate Democrats increased their vote margin by 16%.

Now that we’re done with the primer, let’s get to the results. Right now the VBM ballots are 44%D/34%R, D+10. The good news for Democrats is that it isn’t the D+8 it was in 2014. The bad news is that it isn’t the D+15 in 2016. I don’t think this is going to change that much. That doesn’t mean the electorate will be D+11, just the VBM ballots. Of course those are a high percentage of the ballots.

If all the races worked consistently based on “somewhere in the middle” predictions would be easy. Too bad they aren’t.

Let’s look at the 7 Republican districts Hillary Clinton won. The data is here.

Jeff Denham has been fairly consistent in his performance in each primary. The make-up of the electorate hasn’t varied much in each election either. So it’s safe to guess that Republicans could get 57-59% of the vote. There is another Republican on the ballot, but there was also in 2016. Robert Hodges got only 10% of the vote.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: Very low. The final margin may be illuminating but there’s no reason to watch ballot returns closely.

Ballot returns are D+15 right now, an increase even over 2016. That may indicate some trending towards the Democrats, although this is a primary and not the general election. You don’t get bonus points for doing better in a primary. Valadao’s primary margin dropped from 33% to 11% in 2016. That looked like a red flag that he was in trouble. His winning margin in the general election fell from 16% to 13% in 2016. I don’t know what the electorate would have to look like for Democrats to beat David Valadao. We ca address that in the general.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: None. Valadao is the only Republican on the ballot. His opponent, TJ Cox, is the only Democrat. They’ve both already made top two.

The primary electorate is slightly more Democratic than 2016. The numbers would suggest an encouraging trend for Democrats if they were for the general election.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: None. Steve Knight is the only Republican on the ballot.

Ed Royce is retiring and there are six Democrats and seven Republicans running to succeed him. There are two things to look at when looking at whether a party can get shut out of top two. The first is how many candidates a party has. If one party has only two and the other party has more than the other party could be in danger. Four of the Democrats are seen as serious candidates and three Republicans are. That would seem to favor Republicans but splitting the vote three ways could weaken that chance.

The second thing to look at is vote share. Republicans won the district by 41 and 21 points the last two cycles. That’s bad news for Democrats. They couldn’t crack 40% even in a year that was heavily Democratic. There were roughly 73k votes in the Democratic Presidential primary and only 58k in the Republican primary. Yet Ed Royce got 85k votes and Brett Murdock only got 56k.

This was a nothing race that didn’t matter. This year’s race is one where Democrats are spending money. So they should be able to win some Royce voters. The electorate is R+13. It was R+10 in 2016.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: Medium. There are a lot of serious candidates and if they’re splitting a share in the low 40’s they might not have one candidate stand out.

Possibility of Republicans getting shut out of top two: Low. There are less serious Republicans and Republicans could get 60% of the vote. If the vote is 60%-40%, then a Republican has to get at least 20% and there’s no way two Democrats can get more than that.

Of the seven Clinton districts this district is probably the least likely to flip. Democrats have never come close, the district is very Republican, and Walters is a scandal free Republican.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: None. Walters is the only Republican candidate.

This is a pretty Republican district but it could start trending away from Republicans. Rohrabacher margin in the general sank from 28% to 17% and the district is running stronger for Democrats with VBMs. Still, the returns are R+11 and there are only two serious Republicans running. There is a plethora of Democrats. That seems to be set up for a Democratic shut out.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: Medium. How strong is Scott Baugh and how will Democrats split the vote?

Possibility of Republicans getting shut out of top two: Very low. There are only two serious Republicans and the GOP should get at least 55% of the vote. You get two candidates having more votes than any Republican if you’re only getting 45%.

This district is trending seriously Democratic. Darrell Issa was weaker in the primary and in the general election. Democrats are overperforming VBM ballots. They’ve dropped from R+8 to R+1. Issa only got 50% of the vote with R+8 VBM. Three Democrats have raised over $1.5 million and a fourth Democrat, Doug Applegate, was the 2016 candidate who did so well. His fundraising is good, just not as good as others.

The perception is that there are only two serious Republicans, Diane Harkey and Rocky Chavez. Kristin Gaspar was mayor of Encinitas and Brian Maryott is Mayor Pro-Tem in San Juan Capistrano.

Possibility of Democrats getting shut out of top two: High? Low? No idea. They could get half the vote or they could do worse. They could have one or two strong candidates or split the vote four ways.

Possibility of Republicans getting shut out of top two: High? Low? No idea. Republicans are seen as having less serious candidates and they’ve gotten a higher vote share in the past. But they might have more serious candidates than people think and their vote share might be smaller. I’d guess the Democrats are in more danger of getting shut out than Republicans since Democrats are attacking Rocky Chavez and he’s seen as the candidate who could give Republicans two in top two. On the other hand, Republicans are attacking any Democrat. That tells me they aren’t as concerned and figure they have at least one spot wrapped up.

There are some other districts to watch.

The VBM returns on CA-3 are trending heavily Republican. In 2014 returns were D+5. In 2016 they were D+10. This year it’s D+0.5. This district is a bit unusual, as it’s a mix of Democratic leaning suburbs and Republican leaning rural areas. VBM returns have been light here and it’s possible that Democratic leaning Solano county is behind on reporting ballots. If this holds, Republicans might take more votes in the primary than Democrats. I’m not saying John Garamendi is endangered, but people will talk about him as if he is.

Ami Bera took the district in 2012 and pulled off narrow wins in both Republican heavy 2014 and Democratic heavy 2016. It’d be unusual if this district weren’t in play and VBM returns show it between 2014 and 2016 right now.

I’m not ready to proclaim Jerry McNerney to be endangered but Republicans got more primary votes in both 2012 and 2014. Early VBM returns show the margin to be very close to 2014. So it’s very possible we’ll be talking about the district after the primary.

Some Democrats think that because Devin Nunes is close to Donald Trump that he’s in trouble. While the VBMs are less Republican than in years past there aren’t enough Democratic ballots for Nunes to worry.

Like CA-9 Republicans got more primary votes in 2012 and 2014 in CA-24. Democratic VBM returns are down in this district. So a close primary vote is likely.

CA-36 and 52
These used to be swing districts but they aren’t any more. Democratic incumbents should win easily.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

California Polling

There's a new USC Dornsife/LA Times poll out and I'm not going to link it. Why? Because it's such an embarrassing poll for USC that they should really quit polling. It's an entirely online poll. There are good reasons to do online polling but polls that were entirely online produced some really funky results in 2016. They aren't as accurate as polls that include phone calls.

The poll was conducted between April 18 and May 18. I've never heard of doing over a period of a month because the data is inconsistent. The people who answered in the early part of the poll could've made up their mind or even voted by the later part of the poll. Their answers are meaningless. That's why polls are conducted over 3-4 days.

This poll has roughly 40% undecideds in both the gubernatorial and senate race. That's really strange so close to the election and inconsistent with other recent polls. A poll with that many undecideds doesn't tell us how people will vote. The 2014 primary had 4.5 million votes. So far over 500,000 ballots have been returned. So 10-12% of the voters have not only made up their minds but their vote is set. At this point a pollster should have two samples, people who have voted and people who will vote. That'll give them an accurate idea where the election is.

California political data expert Paul Mitchell on why pollsters are so wrong on California polling. California has a ton of data on who votes. Yet pollsters ignore it. Mitchell shows the share of voters by partisanship, geography, and ethnicity. Latino turnout in primaries has hovered around 12%. Yet the pollsters are showing on average a 24% Latino electorate. They look at what share of registered voters Latinos are and decide that's who is going to vote.

California has party registration. So we know the share of the electorate each party had in the past and we can get a good idea of how that fits in this year by looking at how the VBM returns compare to previous years. Right now it's 44%D/33%R. That's slightly more Democratic than 2014, 44%D/36%R, but less than 2016, 49%D/34%R. Mitchell points out that Republican average 31% of the voters in the public polls but have been 38% of the voters in the last three gubernatorial primaries. Republican share could certainly be lower this year due to Republicans re-registering as NPP but that's a lot lower.

Getting party ID correct is vital in top two. The biggest primary question is whether two Democrats make top two in the senate and gubernatorial races. A poll with 30% Republicans may miss that.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

How Will the California Primary Translate?

Is this a Democratic year? Do the special elections tell us that or are they unique one offs? One good way to tell will be the California primaries. Since it’s top two and everyone can vote for anyone it mirrors the conditions in November. So California will be a good indicator.

In order to give us an idea of what the primary results will tell us we’ll first look at the California general elections.

There were 29 congressional districts where a Republican faced off with a Democrat in the general elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016. The other 24 districts either didn’t have a Republican or a Democrat in one of those three general elections. Keep in mind that these 33 districts aren’t representative of California as a whole, just the districts where the two parties faced off. There are some heavily Democratic districts in there but many of the other 24 are the most heavily Democratic. So Republicans did better here than they did statewide.

Democrats got 54.6% of the vote in these districts in 2012, 51.6% in 2014, and 57.2% in 2016. So 2014 was a Republican year, 2016 a Democratic year, and 2012 in the middle. I want to reiterate that these aren’t the statewide vote. Democrats got 62.0% of the congressional vote statewide in 2012, 57.7% in 2014, and 64.8% in 2016. These numbers shouldn’t be taken as an accurate reflection of the statewide share either, however, since each district didn’t have a Republican and a Democrat running. In 2016, for example, these totals represent 60 Democrats and only 44 Republicans.

There’s a twist when looking at the primary, however. Even though 2014 was a very Republican general election the primary was actually even more Republican. In 6 statewide races Democrats got 56.3% of the two party vote in the primary but actually did better in the general election, getting 57.5%.

On the other hand, Democrats got 70% of the two party Presidential vote in the 2016 primary but only 66% in the general election. Hillary Clinton blew out Donald Trump in the general election but the primary was even more Democratic.

There are 13 congressional districts where the margin of victory for one party was 10% or less in one of the four primary or general elections in 2014 and 2016. They are CA-3, 7, 9, 10, 16, 21, 24, 26, 31, 36, 39, 49, and 52. There are 2 other districts that weren’t that close in any of the four elections, CA-45 and 48. Those 2 are expected to be close this year.

In 2014 Republicans averaged a margin of victory of 13.6% in the primary in these 15 districts. That dropped to only 5.8% in the general election. In 2016 Democrats had an average margin of victory of 1.2% in the primary and 2.4% in the general election.

The statewide primaries for senator, governor, and other downballot races should tell us a lot about what kind of year we should expect. If Democrats are close to the 70% they got in 2016 we should see a very Democratic year. Even when they did get 70% they didn’t win any district that they didn’t get more votes in during the June primary. If it’s a heavily Democratic primary Democrats shouldn’t count on winning any district in November that they don’t win in June. The Democratic statewide vote share in June is closer to the 56% of 2014 there won’t be a blue wave, although we should expect Democrats to make gains on their totals in November.

There’s a huge middle ground here between 56% and 70% and chances are the average statewide vote will fall between 2014 and 2016. Is it possible for Democrats to get more than 70% in a statewide vote? I don’t think so. The last election was a perfect storm for them. Competitive Democratic primaries with uncompetitive Republican ones in a Democratic year. I can’t see that replicated.

We don’t know what the primary statewide vote would have to be for Democrats not to make much in the way of gains but we probably can tell how Democratic the year is based on where it falls between 56% and 70%.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Gavin Newsom's Strategy Could Backfire

California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom is out with an ad linking John Cox to Donald Trump and saying he's too conservative for California.

The LA Times has deduced that Newsome is doing this to help Cox get conservative votes. That'll propel him into the top two and Newsom would be better off facing a Republican than a Democrat. This was done by Claire McCaskill to great success in the 2010 Missouri Senate race. These ads could certainly help Cox, siphoning off votes from his conservative rival Travis Allen. Mission accomplished! High fives all around!


There's a big difference in California. Unlike Missouri, California has no Republican primary, only top two. It'll be a race where everyone can vote. That includes independents and moderate Republicans. In the 2016 election there were voters who vote Republican but voted for Hillary Clinton. In CA-39 Ed Royce won 57%-43%. He won 58%-42% in 2012. That's pretty consistent. The district went from Mitt Romney winning 51%-47% to Hillary Clinton winning 51%-43%. In 2012, Royce overperformed Romney's margin by 12%. In 2016 he overperformed Trump by 22%.

It's possible that these once loyal Republican voters will vote Democratic in 2018. They've already done it once. Their reason for voting Democratic then was Donald Trump. That's the same Donald Trump that Newsom is tying Cox to. These ads could drive suburban voters from Cox to a Democratic alternative like the moderate Antonio Villaraigosa. While Cox may pick up Allen voters, he might lose some to Villaraigosa. Cox might end up with a net loss in the mix while Villaraigosa gains. Newsom could help get the result he's trying to prevent.


Friday, April 27, 2018

California IGS Poll: Bad News for Villaraigosa; Good News for de Leon?

California Berkeley IGS has put out a California primary poll based on online surveys. I'm not sure I've seen Berkeley's polling before but it has far better methodology than SurveyUSA and they actually polled all the candidates.

Newsom 30, Cox 18, Allen 16, Villaraigosa 9, Chiang 7

If this poll is accurate Villaraigosa has little chance. Cox and Allen split the GOP vote and still lap Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa is actually 5th with NPP voters, so undecided NPP voters should actually put him further behind when they decide. Unfortunately for him, Democratic voters have the lowest percentage of undecideds. Villaraigosa's only path to second place is to take a lot of Democratic votes from Newsom. It seems unlikely he could grab enough. Since the state is so heavily Democratic the perception is that only a Democrat could beat Gavin Newsom in the general election. I don't see any reason to disagree with that but it's worth noting that John Cox and Travis Allen are in a genuine close race for second now.

Feinstein 28, de Leon 11, Bradley 10

Wait. What? Who is the Republican leader James Bradley? Bradley's strong showing has perplexed the Sacrmaneto Bee and San Francisco Chronicle.

The answer is hardly complicated. First, let me debunk two theories I've already seen. The first is that the names were listed in alphabetical order and that Bradley benefitted from that. In Chronicle article Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director, disputes this since “since the first five names listed were all Republicans and that only one of them received significant support.”

Secondly, there’s no evidence to support that Republicans will pick an anglo sounding name. In 2014, none of the Republicans were well known or ran much advertising. Yet Neel Kashkari beat Tim Donnelly by 4.6%. The Republican with the most votes in the 2016 Senate race was Duf Sundheim. I’ve never heard of the first name Duf before and have no idea the ethnic origin of Sundheim. Names like Phil Wyman and Greg Conlon are more Anglo sounding and yet Sundheim beat them.

To understand the answer you need to know how California voters pick their candidate when they have no information other than what's in the voting booth. The ballot gives them one snippet, ballot designation. That's the occupation listed below the candidate on the ballot. Ballot designation almost propelled unknown David Evans into top two in the 2014 Controller race.

James Bradley’s ballot designation is “Chief Financial Officer.” The other Republicans list occupations like "Teacher," "Bus Driver," and "Civil Rights Advocate." While those are all admirable professions they aren't what Republican voters are looking for in their candidates. They like ballot designations that show success in business. Only three of the Republicans have ballot designations that’d appeal to Republican voters and Bradley’s is probably the strongest. When I brought this up to California election data expert Paul Mitchell, he agreed with my assessment. So mystery solved.

The poll is still good news for Kevin de Leon even with so much of the Republican vote going to Bradley. de Leon is getting a decent 15% of Democrats and 15% of NPP voters. Dianne Feinstein is only getting 19% of NPP voters and all the Republicans combined are getting 12%. If undecideds break the way the voters in this poll do, de Leon gets 23% of Democrats and 28% of NPP. That'd give him around 18% of the vote and there's a decent shot he makes top two even if Bradley is as strong as he looks here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Kevin de León Has No Path to Getting Elected

Today there's a story that Billionaire Tom Steyer is endorsing Kevin de León and could fund ads for him. People talk like de León has a chance but none of these people outline his path to victory. All you get is a vague answer about how other candidates have run to the left and won. Gavin Newsom is an example. This doesn't take into account two things. None of these candidates ran against a popular long time Democratic incumbent and none of them ran exclusively as a progressive champion. Kamala Harris ran as the attorney general who fought for you, not on progressive positions. I can't find Gavin Newsom ads on line. While he's staked out a position to the left he's not running primarily on that.

Running as a progressive champion may be all Kevin de León can do. Unlike Newsom and Harris people don't know who he is and he doesn't have a record like Harris. SurveyUSA had Feinstein ahead 52%-7% among Democrats and 22%-5% among independents. He isn’t competing for the 35-42% of the voters who lean right. An incumbent like Feinstein has a huge advantage due to her long record in the job and her popularity. There are also a percentage of Democrats who might be inclined to vote for the more progressive candidate but would support an incumbent over a challenger. It'd be disloyal to Feinstein to vote against her.

de León is trying to get enough of the voters who lean left and hoping for a fractured Republican field. It’s possible he gets that. Loretta Sanchez did, although she did so with no incumbent, high Democratic turnout, low Republican turnout, and running to Harris’ right, not her left. The general election is impossible. Republicans will vote heavily Feinstein, probably better than 80%-20%. One flank of de León's campaign is how awful Republicans are. He’s actively telling them he doesn’t want their votes and vote Feinstein. While some will leave the ballot blank, most will vote for one of the two candidates.California had 13.7% less votes in the 2016 senate race than the presidential race. Most other races were in 2% range. The two right leaning Presidential candidates got 35% of the California vote. So, at most, 1/3 of right leaning voters skipped the race. He’d have to win Democrats and independents by 25% to overcome that. And right now he’s losing Democrats by more than 7 to 1.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

PPIC California Poll

PPIC is out with a new California poll and it's a bad one for Antonio Villarigosa. He's now third behind John Cox. The underlying numbers aren't encouraging for him. 30% of Republicans, 26% of independents, and 17% of Democrats are undecided. Villarigosa is running 4th among independents, so he's likely to lose ground when those 77% of the undecideds decide. If Chiang or Easton get some traction he'll probably fall to 4th. One big problem he has is that Newsom even beats him with moderates. And he's running a far left campaign.

The Senate poll is junk. They include only two candidates when there are two dozen running. That's why 39% are undecided here, but only 24% are in the gubernatorial poll. Less Democrats are undecided in this poll but Republicans and independents sky rocket. De Leon gets killed by Feinstein among Democrats and independents but is close to her among Republicans who choose between the two. That isn't surprising even though de Leon is running on a progressive anti-Republican/Donald Trump message. I’m guessing that de Leon is angry that any Republicans would vote for him. These are people he despises.

Republicans don't know who he is, so some choose him over Feinstein. They know they don't want her. If Republicans actually hear about de Leon he wouldn’t do so well head to head. There are 4 Republicans in the race. I'm thinking Republicans will get 31-36% of the vote and Democrats 57-62%, with the remaining going to other parties. If de Leon is only able to get 15 % of the vote he needs a fairly even split over 3 or 4 candidates and hope one doesn't break out. Elizabeth Emken did in 2012, to some extent, but no one did in 2016. De Leon finishing top two is possible, although I think his chances are less than 50%. He has no path to victory in a one-on-one match-up. People registering Democratic aren't abandoning Feinstein and there aren't enough independents on her left for de Leon to beat her with them.

I keep hearing that no Republican will finish top two because there aren't any well known Republicans in the race. I guess this goes with theory that people will vote for whoever they know and/or see ads for. Um... No. Republicans will vote for a Republican they've never heard of instead of leaving the ballot blank or voting for a Democrat they dislike. A Republican Senate candidate could make top two without anyone knowing who he is.

Friday, January 12, 2018

SurveyUSA on California Governor and Senator

We've seen a few polls for the California gubernatorial and senate races but one problem common to all the polls was that they didn't actually survey the entire ballot. They chose the candidates they thought would do the best and polled them. This wasn't as big a problem for the gubernatorial race, as the polls included as many as six candidates, four Democrats and two Republicans. The senate polls, however, included only two Democrats, Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de Leon. And then they gave the shocking revelation that two Democrats would finish top two! Hmmm. You included only two candidates and both finished top two. What are the odds?

I've had a lot of criticism for SurveyUSA's polls. They've included voters who say they're going to vote and have ended up with 80% of the voters they've reached included in the survey. A primary might get a third of that. In this new poll they only include 55% of registered voters. Probably still too high but definitely better than previous polls. SurveyUSA includes everyone who'll be on the ballot and even some who probably won't be. They have over 30 candidates for governor and 20 for senator. It may be difficult for people to keep track of so many candidates in a phone survey but it's more reflective of what the actual ballot will be.

In the gubernatorial survey Gavin Newsom leads fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa and Republican Travis Allen 18%-10%-9% in the gubernatorial poll. More than twice as many Republicans were undecided than Democrats. I gave the undecideds a choice based on what their fellow Republicans, Democrats, and independents said and ended up with Newsom 23%, Allen 15%, and Villaraigosa 12%. That'd put a Democrat and a Republican in top two and would mean an easy Newsom victory in November. Villaraigosa wouldn't make top two because of the number of Democrats in the field, but also because he isn't seen as an alternative for Republicans in the survey.

The senate poll produces very different results than previous surveys. In the Capitol Weekly poll that included only two Democrats Kevin De Leon beat Dianne Feinstein among Republicans 36%-17%. I theorized this was because Republicans had no idea who De Leon was but knew they didn't want Feinstein. When the four Republicans who are running are included on the ballot, those Republicans get 47% of the Republican vote, with Feinstein getting 6% and De Leon getting only 2%. As a result, De Leon finishes 6th, behind all four Republicans.

The survey isn't all bad news for De Leon, however. Feinstein beats him 58%-6% with Democrats and 25%-2% with independents. Once De Leon gets his name out there those margins should shrink, perhaps quite a bit. Secondly, the four Republicans are unknown and they split the Republican vote almost equally. If De Leon can improve his numbers with Democrats and left leaning independents he can make top two because the four Republicans split the vote. My projection is Feinstein 35%, De Leon 15%, and the Republicans in the 9-11% range.

The big difference between the gubernatorial and senate races is that Travis Allen is well known with the grassroots and has garnered some support. If Republicans don't run someone Republican voters have heard of, their candidates will split the vote. It's not a high bar for Republicans. They don't need a stellar candidate with huge name ID, but they do need someone voters can identify.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

538 Podcasts on Gerrymandering

538 has been tackling gerrymandering on their podcasts. The central theme in most of the media since 2012 has been that gerrymandering is how Republicans steal elections.

In the first episode they look at Wisconsin, a Republican gerrymander. Democrats won the majority of the congressional vote in 2012 and still only won 3 of the 9 districts. The Wisconsin map doesn’t look that much like a gerrymander. Two of the Democratic districts are fairly compact and, to some extent, reflect Democratic self-packing, something that is mentioned in the podcast. Republicans won the three closest districts by 12 points apiece. So it’s possible that even if the GOP hadn’t gerrymandered the state Republicans might’ve also won 6 seats.

Democrats sued because they felt that winning a majority of the vote entitled them to more than 3 seats. The case is before the Supreme Court.

They then went to North Carolina. North Carolina was a very ugly looking Republican gerrymander that resulted in Republicans winning 10 of 13 seats despite Democrats winning a majority of the vote. Democrats sued that the map was a racial gerrymander. They won. So Republicans redrew the districts to comply with the court and drew a gerrymander that wasn’t nearly as ugly. The GOP won 53% of the vote in 2016 and still won 10 of 13 seats. The map is still a Republican gerrymander designed to crack and pack Democrats. It just doesn’t look as much like one.

The central premise here is that Democrats aren’t winning congressional districts proportional to their vote totals.

The podcast didn’t feature any Democratic controlled states like Massachusetts and Maryland, ugly maps that give Democrats a disproportional share of the seats.

They go to the controversial Arizona map. These were drawn by a commission where an independent is supposed to be the deciding vote. The independent Colleen Mathis is married to someone heavily involved with the Democratic party. Mathis dismisses the idea that she might favor Democrats. She can think for herself! Um… They wouldn’t let Mathis serve on the jury if her husband was trial, although I’m guessing that Mathis would argue that she should be because she thinks for herself.

The maps were supposed to maximize competitive districts. So Mathis and the Democrats packed Republicans into 4 districts in order to make 3 others competitive. They weren’t competitive. In 2012 Democrats took all 3. So Democrats won more districts despite losing the popular vote 54%-46%. Mathis points out that Republicans did win 1 of the 3 districts in 2014. So the districts were fair! What she doesn’t mention was that 2014 was a massive Republican wave and that Republicans won that district by 130 votes in a recount. So the best Republicans could do in 3 “competitive” districts was win 1 of them by a slim margin in a big Republican year.

538 concluded the Wisconsin and North Carolina maps were unfair to Democrats. I would’ve thought the Arizona result would lead to the conclusion that the map was unfair to Republicans, but 538 concludes that nothing was off.

I should add that the commissioner in Arizona admitted the districts were heavily gerrymandered in order to produce competitive elections. So if people are upset about gerrymandering they should be upset about these lines.

The fourth episode went to California, discussing how the 2001 maps were heavily gerrymandered to protect incumbents. A commission was set up to take politics out of the process. The podcast goes indepth about how Democrats tried to inject politics back into the line drawing, disguising it as concerned citizens looking out for their communities. Republicans stayed away.

Instead of presenting Republicans as virtuous for complying with the law and Democrats as cheaters, 538 presents Democrats as smart and Republicans as stupid. Republicans need to learn to game the system the way Democrats did. The commission’s goal was to remove partisanship from the equation and yet the podcast said they didn’t happen.

The podcast goes over how the lines are much better than 2001 and the elections were much more competitive. What they gloss over is that, as with Arizona, Democrats won ALL the competitive elections. Republicans were only able to get within 3 points in 7 districts in the massive 2014 Republican wave. Despite winning 42% of the vote the GOP got only 26% of the districts.

If districts are drawn where one party can’t win so called “swing” districts in a massive wave, then they aren’t competitive. They’re not swing districts. A swing district is one which each party wins during a decade, especially during a massive wave. Yet Republicans were only about to win one “swing” district in either Arizona or California during their best year and win that one by 130 votes.

The Cleveland Browns went 0-16, but they did lose 5 games by 4 points or less and a 6th game in overtime. No one would argue the Cleveland Browns were competitive.

Those that think gerrymandering is responsible for uncompetitive elections should really look at California. The districts aren’t gerrymandered yet even under the most generous terms 80-85% of the districts are safe. Of course, thus far, 100% of the districts have been safe and California has had less turnover than other states.

It’s possible that more districts will flip to California Democrats in 2018 and that’ll be a sign that shows how uncompetitive the maps are. Republicans get 42% of the statewide vote and now could get even less than 26% of the districts. That’s the ceiling?

The 538 gerrymandering series shows some things, although I’m not sure they realize what it shows. Yes, when one party has unfettered control that can lead to less competitive seats. I’m not sure they realize that they’ve shown that when the drawing is done by someone other than a partisan legislature that doesn’t lead to more competitive.

The Arizona commission was asked to make competitive districts. They said that’s what they did, but they drew districts that weren’t competitive. In California the commission wasn’t charged with making competitive but the hope was that not considering prior voting would make more competitive elections. It didn’t.

What the series showed was the quixotic nature of the complaints. People claim that gerrymandering needs to end to get competitive districts, but California shows us that won’t be the case. People claim that gerrymandering needs to continue to get competitive districts, like in Arizona. And yet the gerrymandering didn’t produce that either.

Both California and Arizona are as unfair to Republicans as Wisconsin and North Carolina are unfair to the Democrats. Yet Democrats want more states like California and Arizona, and have no problem with Maryland or Illinois. So perhaps it’s not about gerrymandering at all, but just Democrats wanting to win more elections.