Friday, November 30, 2018

Vote Harvesting

Democrats had a great election. Congratulations. They had had four consecutive mediocre to poor House elections and they were bound to have a good one eventually. They got destroyed in 2010 and 20014. They won narrowly in 2012 and lost narrowly in 2016. Winning by a 1 point in 2012 was a pretty low high point. When there are only two parties, one can't dominate for too long. You'd better have a good election in a mid-term with the other party in the White House.

That said, just because a party should win big doesn't mean they'll actually win big. Hillary Clinton was expecting a 10 point win. Or maybe it was 50 points. The environment was great for Democrats and they took advantage.

They certainly did that in California. They wiped Republicans out. I was very wrong in my predictions and I couldn't figure out why. My predictions looked great at the end of election night. I was a little high for some Republicans and a little low for others. The late vote has skewed Democratic. In 2016, they picked up votes after election day in 80% of the districts. On average Democrats gained about 1.8 points. So I figured my predictions would still look good in the end.

I was very very wrong. The post-election votes were nothing like they'd been in the past three elections. Democrats had done 5-6 points better after election day previously were doing 20 points better. And there were a lot more post-election day ballots than there'd ever been. This election was different than the three previous ones and I couldn't figure out why. I was rather embarrassed that I'd dropped the ball by so much. Okay, I thought. This is taking so many unexpected bad turns for Republicans I'm better off waiting until it's over and then writing something.

I had no idea why this happened. I knew it couldn't be Republicans massively voting Democratic or NPP voters going from voting Republicans by 10 to Democrats by 40.

I found out the answer today. In 2016 Democrats made it legal for anyone to pick up VBM ballots from voters and deliver them to the ballot box themselves. Previously only a family member could do it. The process of picking up people's ballots is called vote harvesting.

Democrats outspent Republicans in California by 4-5 to 1. Most of the Democratic candidates spent double what their Republican counterparts did and Democratic dark money groups added to that. Republicans have shown an unwillingness to spend money in California. They didn't spend in 2014 and lost a bunch of districts narrowly. I think they're more willing to spend down ballot money when the party is competing for Senate and Gubernatorial elections up ballot. That doesn't happen here.

The bill was passed on a party line vote with Democrats voting for it and Republicans voting against it. Democrats clearly had a plan in place when they passed the bill and did something called vote harvesting. They sent their operatives to people they felt would vote Democratic and collected their VBM ballots at such a massive rate that the post-election counts were practically only adding Democratic ballots.

Republicans lost 6 districts where they had an election night lead. As a result, Republicans won roughly 35% of the House vote but won 13% of the congressional districts. Republicans may think that's wrong but they did know the rules Democrats made for the election. It's not the Democrats fault that the GOP couldn't take advantage of the rules.

I don't know if vote harvesting is legal in other states. It looks like it happened in North Carolina and people may go to jail as a result.

Republicans have called for voter ID for years but there's likely little fraud voting in person. Even without an ID some people voting for someone else would be recognized as not being that person. There's only so much you could get away with. It's easy to commit fraud with vote by mail, on the other hand. There's no one to check that you're the person who is supposed to fill in the ballot and you have weeks to collect ballots, rather than 12 hours to vote.

Vote harvesting makes it easier because now you can legally have someone else's ballot.

A campaign worker comes to someone's house. "Have you completed your ballot?"
"Give it to me. I'm allowed to complete it for you."

Or they could open the envelope and change any vote they don't like. That won't get their candidate a vote but it will get the ballot thrown out. Sure, they're not supposed to do that but there's nothing stopping them from doing it now.

A campaign worker comes to someone's house. "Have you completed your ballot?"
"Yes, here's my ballot and my husband's ballot."

Husband and wife are different parties. Why not just throw out the ballot that'll go against you? A hundred people in a nursing home are supposed to get their ballots delivered to them by the staff. What's to stop that staffer from taking those ballots and filling them out themselves? It might be illegal to fill out someone else's ballot and turn it in, but how would anyone know?

All these things have happened in the past and been reported. That wasn't on a massive scale. Did that happen this year? We have no way of knowing. What we can know is that the California system makes it easy to do this.

Maybe there's little or no voter fraud. Regardless this election has shown that sRepublicans don't have the money to compete with Democrats under these rules. I think 2020 will be even better for Democrats than 2018 was. I can see Republicans being reduced to 3 or 4 districts.

Monday, November 5, 2018

California Predictions

Special thank you to Paul Mitchell and PDI, without whom I wouldn't have the data to interpret. When I present you the numbers and provide you insight I go with the idea that the way people have voted in the past will give us a lot of insight into how they'll vote this year. You must think there's merit to that because you're still reading this after a couple of weeks of inside baseball numbers.

Nate Cohn and pollsters tell me I'm wrong. That studying the numbers is irrelevant because Republicans and NPP voters won't vote the way they have in the past. They're voting Democratic. If they're right, these predictions will be awful and you can point a finger at me and laugh. I'd rather get my predictions wrong because I used an incorrect assumption than get them right because I'm trying to conform to what the pollsters tell me will happen.

We have only one day more of VBM returns. The last day before election day is usually pretty big and it’s possible I’ll want to adjust my predictions before then. But they’d only be small tweaks. The link for my past and current predictions will be at the bottom. Don't want to spoil it. if you read this blog in 2014 and 2016 you can find the posts with these predictions.

In 2014, I made predictions on 11 congressional races. I got within 2% of the Republican voting percentage on 8 of them. I really blew CA-52 when I called it big for Carl DeMaio, but CA-52 was changing fast and the data hadn’t caught up with it. I called tight races in CA-3, 9, 16, 24, and 31 when the media didn’t even bother to look at them. The races were tight.

In 2016 I expanded to 20 contests. I was within 2 on only 10 of them, although I was within 3.4 on 15.

While other people tentatively make predictions on which candidate will win, I boldly predict actual percentage of the vote. So even if I'm off by 5 points, you probably won't find anyone else who dared to even try.

I developed a formula based on adjusting the VBM for the environment. I decided to use that rather than play around with the percentages to get something I agreed with. Live by the math, die by the math.

I’m skipping a few races that I predict but don’t expect to be competitive, but they are on the spreadsheet. CA-7: This district has been competitive in each cycle. The VBM margin suggests it could be competitive again. So an upset is possible. But I adjusted in a Democratic friendly environment to Bera 52.7%-47.3%.

CA-10: I was pessimistic on Jeff Denham earlier, but as of now there is only 1 more Democratic ballot than Republican ballot. That’s a real positive for a Central Valley Republican. If the wave peters out anywhere it may be districts like this one that don’t have a lot of white collar suburbs. Denham 51.5%-49.5%.

CA-16: Jim Costa got a scare in 2014 and so far VBMs are more Republican than that year. This one will be more competitive than people think. Costsa 52.0%-48.0%.

CA-21: This district is also more Republican than 2014. David Valadao has had relatively easy elections and I don’t see this one as any different. Valadao 59.4%-40.6%.

CA-22: Devin Nunes has been on the Democratic wish list all cycle. I don’t see it as being close, although it’ll be Nunes’ smallest margin. Nunes 56.8%-43.2%.

CA-24: This district has been close, even in 2014 when Republicans spent nothing and supposedly had a candidate who was too extreme. I gave Democrats the benefit of environment here. Carbajal 53.3%-46.6%.

CA-25: I know the NYT/Siena poll was kind to Steve Knight. Full Disclosure: I did some volunteer work for the campaign in 2016. Fortunately, no one there knows me. So they won’t hate me for this. Hill 51.4%-48.6%

CA-39: The polls may be down on Young Kim but my numbers suggest otherwise. I think if she goes down, every vulnerable Republican does too. Kim 52.2%-47.8%

CA-45: When I ran the numbers I came out with a 50.0%-50.0% tie. Yes, seriously. Of course that’s just me inputting the numbers I think make sense. Since the VBMs have been trending away from Walters, Porter 50.1%-49.9%.

I know that the way people look at predictions they’ll judge I’m right if Porter wins and wrong if Walters wins. That’s not how you should look at it. If Walters wins with 50.2%, my prediction was brilliant. If Porter wins with 54% my prediction was awful.

CA-48: I’ve maintained that Rohrabacher’s past voters like him and I think the data shows it. Rohrabacher 52.7%-47.3%.

CA-49: For a while there Harkey looked like she had a shot, but I do think it’ll be much closer than people think. Levin 52.0%-48.0%.

CA-50: When an incumbent is in a scandal voting can get funky. Reliable voters defect not because they like the other guy but because they're disgusted. I don't know if that'll happen here, but I'm saying no. If they do defect I think you'll see down ballot candidates in SD-78 and AD-75 do as well as I'm showing here. Hunter should win 59.2%-40.8%.

Here's the spreadsheet

Friday, November 2, 2018

Republicans Holding Steady in California VBMs

Yesterday some counties reported a lot of ballots but some didn’t report any. Those include Los Angeles and San Diego.

CA-7: Over 11k ballots added to the total bringing the overall votes to over 95k. It’s still D+2.

CA-10: We had a ridiculously huge 18k ballots added to the total and there were 43 more Republican ballots than Democratic ones. Overall, there are 67 more Republican ballots. Jeff Denham hasn’t had more Republican VBMs than Democratic ones since 2014, so the electorate is good for him.

CA-21: We had a small number of ballots added but the electorate is still only D+2, better than any David Valadao has ever had.

CA-24: A D+6 should make the Democrats more comfortable. The district is still D+2, however.

CA-39: Ballots were R+9, so the district is still R+12. That’s the same as the primary and better than 2016.

CA-45: An R+8 days moves the district from R+13 to R+12. The district had the widest difference between VBM margin and results but this is still a good spot for the GOP.

CA-48: An R+8 day leaves the district at R+13, better than the primary.

CA-49: Only Orange County ballots yesterday, so the R+24 day doesn’t reflect the district. Still, Diane Harkey needs all the Orange County ballots she can get.

CA-50: I haven’t mentioned this district because the R+19 electorate is one that a scandal free Republican couldn’t lose with. Could Duncan Hunter? I have no idea. Scandals can turn any loyal voter into switching who they’d vote for.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Democrats Make Gains With VBMs

I’ve been getting feedback that I’m too optimistic for Republicans. What I’m trying to do here isn’t making predictions but show you the number of votes cast and letting you know what they mean based on historical context. Republicans have won every election except for one for every Republican district currently in play. So there’s no historical precedent for a Democratic victory. The lone exception is Democrats winning the primary in CA-49 this year.

I’m a firm believer that voter turnout by party and results can be analyzed to determine a relationship and then be applied to the current election. And so are you, or you wouldn’t be reading another post I’m writing. If you thought we can’t learn anything from the past votes then you wouldn’t be still be here.

Okay, so I’m telling you what current turnout would’ve meant in the four previous primary and general elections. In some cases the final vote correlates very highly with the VBM turnout differential. In others, it doesn’t. CA-36 has had fairly even turnout in each election but Raul Ruiz has done a lot better. David Valadao has won by double digits in each election despite a strong D+ turnout. In both cases the congressmen likely do well with NPP voters.

In the 2014 general, the 2016 primary, and 2016 CA-45 general election, Republicans beat the VBM differential by 5-6 points. The 2018 primary was a complete reversal, with Democrats beating it by 9.6 points. It’s my belief that the most likely result will be between Democrats doing 9.6 points better and Republicans doing 6.2.

It’s possible Democrats could do even better than 9.6 points better than VBMs. Before the 2016 primary we wouldn’t have thought Democrats could do better than VBMs, but they not only did that, but they actually did a lot better. That was likely due to a lop-sided NPP advantage.

I’ll stand by my belief that the most likely result will fall within the historical range. That doesn’t mean I think it’ll definitely be in the range. In fact, I’m guessing a few will fall out of the range. But most won’t. I’m compiling the data for 17 districts. I think 13-14 should be in the range listed.

Of course, we could be seeing a big blue wave and that could mean most of them will be better for Democrats than they’ve ever been.

CA-7: A D+6 day is good for Ami Bera, but the district is still D+2 VBM.

CA-10: There was a huge number of ballots and the district is still even. I actually think I’ve been pessimistic for Jeff Denham. He’s won with D+1-3 VBM returns and this is better. His district didn’t have a huge leftward turn others did in the primary.

CA-16: The district remains more Republican than it has been and that shows that the GOP still has a shot here. Districts like CA-10 and CA-16 don’t have the suburban voters the Orange County districts do. That may mean the voters are less likely to flip.

CA-21: I'll go out on a limb and make an early prediction that David Valadao wins by 20 points. This one won't be close.

CA-39: The reason I remain skeptical of Democratic chances here is that the primary wasn’t close. Republicans won by 8 points. That’s better than Democrats have done but the VBMs are still better for the GOP than they were in the last three elections Republicans won.

CA-45: Today was a very good day for Democrats here, lowering the VBMs from R+14 to R+13. That’s better than the primary and the numbers are inching their way to a point Mimi Walters could be in big trouble.

CA-48: This district also went from R+14 to R+13. That’s still better than the primary and Republicans won there by 6.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Election Looking Better for California Democrats

The early VBM returns were so bad for California Democrats that it had to get better. Will it get better enough for them to take GOP districts? Probably 2-3 but not 6-7.

Keep in mind that even if I don't post every day the spreadsheet is updated daily. And you don't my analysis when you can analyze the numbers yourself.

Nate Cohn and others have speculated that the more ballots that come in the worse it is for Republicans. They’ve voted heavier and Democrats are ones that are left.

There’s logic in that. However, we should keep in mind that while the 2.5 million ballots in now is much larger than the 1.7 million in at the same point in 2014, there were only 9 million ballots mailed that year and 13 million this year. The percentage of ballots returned to this point is actually comparable to 2014. So there’s just as much room for both Republicans and Democrats to return ballots this year.

Turn out this year should be up in overall percentage of ballots over 2014 but it won’t be up to the extent that almost everyone will vote. Even in high turnout you probably won’t have more than half of registered voters voting.

CA-7: At D+2 this one remains tight.

CA-10: There have been 16,293 Democratic ballots and 16,294 Republican ballots. This is still better for Jeff Denham than he’s had it before but the district remains a toss up.

CA-16: Major influx of Democratic ballots. This one likely isn’t worth watching.

CA-21: We had more Republican ballots than Democratic ballots yesterday. It seems a shame for Republicans that the congressman with the best VBM returns is the one who is in the least trouble.

CA-25: Another good day for Democrats. The VBMs are now down to R+5.5. It’s a danger zone for Steve Knight but not one that has him at a disadvantage.

CA-39: Yesterday was only R+1, excellent for Democrats. The VBMs are still at R+13, well ahead of the primary. I don’t think the GOP is in real danger at this point.

CA-45: The VBMs were R+14 yesterday, the same as they were before. It’s a surprise considering how bad Republicans have done the last few days. I know there’s a lot of controversy about this district but R+14 is a good place for Mimi Walters.

CA-48: An R+10 day leaves the district at R+14. Still safe for Dana Rohrabacher.

CA-49: An R+4 day drops the VBMs to R+8. Darrell Issa nearly lost with R+8 two years ago. So the district is definitely in the danger zone, although not one that Diane Harkey is sure to lose.

As of now, I see CA-7, 10, 25, and 49 as nail biters, while CA-39, 45, and 48 look good for the GOP.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Are They All Just Voting Democratic?

I know I've written about this before but Nate Cohn is getting questions about who is voting. So I'm going to address it again. Cohn is running the New York Times/Siena polls that have shown Democrats doing well in California. They just finished a poll in CA-25 that had Republican Steve Knight winning by 4. So they're not all great for the Democrats.

The VBM numbers in California, especially Orange County, contradict the narrative of a big blue wave. Nate Cohn's contention is that it doesn't matter if the VBM numbers are more Republican than expected because some Republicans are voting for Democrats and NPP voters are voting overwhelmingly Democratic. This is possible and I can't dispute that their poll numbers are saying this.

I'm skeptical because that hasn't happened in the past to the extent that he's indicating. We certainly saw some Democratic skew in the primary. With an R+12 VBM electorate Republicans only won by 8 points in CA-39. With an R+15 electorate Republicans won by only 6 points in CA-45. Cohn's numbers indicate even more Republican and Republican leaning independents voting Democratic, even though it didn't happen in 2016, when some voted for Clinton or in the primary. Hillary Clinton won California by 30 points but only won NPP voters by 13. She likely lost NPP voters in districts she won by under 15 points like those in Orange County. The idea that NPP voters would go Democratic by 45 points, as they have in CA-49, defies belief. Candidates who win in landslides don't win independent voters by 45 points.

Cohn mentioned that the primary electorate for CA-25 was R+5. The VBM electorate was R+8. I don't have final electorate numbers but R+5 is possible. Cohn said that he was using an R+0 electorate for this election. The VBMs are R+7, so it's likely that the final electorate won't be R+0.

Cohn is using the data he's getting from his surveys. I'm using the actual voters from the California Secretary of State. These two sources may lead to contradictory conclusions. I'll stick with this data. If you're interested in who has actually voted, keep reading this blog. If not, go elsewhere.

Spreadsheet Addition

I've made an addition to the spreadsheet. The right hand column which shows you the difference between the partisan VBM advantage and the final result. Some districts are more consistent in some and others. I've added a number on the left shaded in green that is the 2018 result if Democrats do as well as they have in their best election. The number on the right in orange is the result if Republicans beat the VBM by as much as they did in their best election.

In CA-25 this VBM return would result in a 2 point Republican win if the Democrats do as well as they did in their best election and a 10 point Republican win if the Republicans do as well as they did in their best election. Those numbers suggest that Republicans are guaranteed a win. That would be the case if people voted the same way they've voted in past elections. Many districts will but some won't.

What these numbers tell us is that it wouldn't be that much better than the best Democratic result if Democrats win the district this year. So if NPP or Republican voters vote a little more Democratic than they have in the past then the Democrats will win. On the other hand the VBMs for CA-48 suggest a Republican win of 13-20 points. If the VBMs stay where they are a Democratic win looks pretty much impossible.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A District to Watch

Most counties didn’t report VBMs, but Orange County does so every day. And the Orange County numbers have been consistently good for the GOP.

CA-24: One non-Orange County district that showed new VBM returns was CA-24. And there was a massive surge in Republican ballots. The day was 35%D/43%R and there are now 8 more Republican ballots in than Democratic ballots. In the past Democrats have beaten VBMs by 1-5 points, so this still looks like a narrow Democratic victory.

This is the highest return district of all the ones I’m monitoring and it’s at 21%. Anyone who thinks CA-24 isn’t worth watching is going to be in for a surprise on election night.

CA-25: Good news here for Democrats. It was an R+1 day, reducing VBMs from R+8 to R+7. I don’t know what the electorate has to be for Katie Hill to win but she’ll get into that range with more days like this.

CA-39: A 33%D/44%R day reduced the Republican advantage from R+18 to R+17. While an R+1 day is very helpful to Katie Hill, an R+11 day is probably a day Gil Cisneros loses more ground.

CA-45: A 30%D/47%R day keeps the district at R+17%

CA-48: This district is still R+16%

CA-49: Any day with only Orange County ballots is good for Diane Harkey. A whopping 52% of the ballots were Republican. The district is R+24 in Orange County but only R+4 in San Diego County. Overall, it’s R+10 right now and that should be Republican enough for Harkey to win. But if the GOP advantage shrinks quite a bit with the next San Diego addition the district goes to Levin.

I’ve written this earlier and I’ll write it again. You can make one of two assumptions. The first is Republicans, Democrats, and NPP voters will for each party similar to the way they have in the last four elections. There’s some variance here. In some elections Republicans beat the VBM return margin and in others the Democrats beat it.

The second assumption is that enough Republican and NPP voters vote Democratic that these there’s no ballot return advantage that means Republicans win. This is possible, although I think less likely. Historical voting patterns tell how people vote. But if this is true, there’s no point in even looking at these numbers. Democrats win everywhere! If you were 100% sold on this assumption you wouldn’t be reading this.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Some Good News for Each Side

One more huge thank you to Political Data for providing that data in a fun easy to access manner. The spreadsheet where I organize all that data is here.

We had another 256k VBM returns statewide bumping the overall return rate from 10.2% to 12.3%. Overall, Democrats have returned 10.5% of their ballots, while Republicans have returned 18.6% of theirs. NPP voters have only returned 8.8% of theirs. They always are lower propensity voters.

We had another big add for CA-10. It’s gone from being one of the lowest rates of return to one of the highest. The return differential was R+1, enough to bump the overall numbers from even to R+1 due to rounding. Jeff Denham won in 2016 with a D+1 VBM return.

CA-16 moved from D+7 to D+8. It was D+11 in 2014 when it was close so the district is still in the watch mode.

CA-21 went the other way, from D+7 to D+6. David Valadao won by 13 points with a D+11 VBM electorate in 2016. It’s hard to see the electorate becoming anything that’ll endanger him.

CA-39 had returns that were R+20 yesterday and remains an R+18 VBM electorate. It was R+12 in June. I don’t care what the polls say, an electorate like this should give Young Kim at least the 8 point win she had in June.

CA-45 had returns that were R+18 and this district remains R+17. With an R+15 electorate she won by 6 points. That was a rather dramatic advantage for the Democrats but if she won with an R+15 VBM electorate an R+17 should be safe.

CA-48 moved in the other direction from R+17 to R+16. An R+10 VBM electorate gave Republicans a 7 point win in June.

CA-49 had an enormous San Diego VBM dump. The district went from 11% of VBM ballots returned to 16%. There’s good news for both sides here. The ballots were R+4, lowering the overall VBMs from R+13 to R+10. This is good news for Democrat Mike Levin because that’s a significant move. If he keeps getting moves like that he’ll win.

On the other hand, the day was R+4 overall. In the primary the VBM electorate was R+1, better than even the best Democratic day. And that led to a 3 point Democratic win. If the general electorate votes the same way an R+4 day would be even. If Diane Harkey’s worst day is treading water when she’s in the lead she should win.

On the other hand, in 2016 the margin was less than a point with an R+8 VBM electorate. It’s conceivable that VBMs could get into that range again. That said, the national narrative is that Diane Harkey is toast. These VBM numbers indicate she may have a decent chance.

Democrats have blanketed the airwaves with ads. Democrats always say money shouldn’t buy elections but they’re trying to do just that. Michael Bloomberg’s dark money PAC is coming in with a huge buy for the last two weeks. The problem with that is that many Californians will have voted long before he tries to buy the election for Democrats.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

California VBM Ballot Update

Before I give you an update, I'll attempt to reconcile the rosy GOP numbers with Nate Cohn's New York Times/Siena Poll. The latest poll has Mike Levin leading Diane Harkey in CA-49 53%-39%.

The NYT/Siena poll has Levin winning 10% of registered Republicans with Harkey winning only 3% of registered Democrats. This is certainly possible but I think it's unlikely. Republican approval of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans is very high. So many California Republicans have left the party to become NPP that those left are dedicated Republicans.

The NYT/Siena poll has Levin winning NPP voters 69%-21%. I've never seen a margin anywhere near 48% in any election. I'm sure it's possible to find a few but I can't think of any. Donald Trump lost California by 30 points and still only lost independents by 13%. Chuck Schmuer won re-election by 44% and he won independents by 39%. In a new PPIC poll California Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox is beating Democrat Gavin Newsom with independents 43%-38%. Independents statewide are more likely to lean left than independents in a Republican district.

They use a 34% Democrat/39% Republican electorate. That electorate is possible in this district but VBMs are 32% Democrat/45% Republican. It's possible that electorate could move a little more Democratic when all VBM ballots are in and even more Democratic when all the ballots come in but that's a heavy lift. The final electorate is going to be between R+9 and R+18 and they're using R+5.

I'm not saying their results are wrong. I believe that based on everything I see in polls that they could be right. What I am saying is that the data of who is actually voting doesn't support this poll.

There were 228,884 added and that’s 18% of all ballots recorded so far. Overall, 10% of all VBM voters have voted and VBMs are 66% of all voters. So the numbers are starting to get a bit more significant.

CA-7: It was a decent D+4 day for Democrats. It’s still a D+2 electorate, but this is a nail biter of a district so every little bit helps.

CA-10: There was a significant ballot addition here. They only had 7,327 ballots in before yesterday and they added 11,098. Yeah. A lot. And there were 4,607 Republican ballots compared to 4,551 Democratic ballots. So with 7.7% of all ballots in there are 76 more Republican ballots than Democratic ones. I was asked whether Jeff Denham can win with this electorate. The question should be whether he could lose. This electorate is more Republican than the 2016 primary, 2016 general, and 2018 primary. He won all of those. Yes, he could lose if enough Republicans vote for Democrats and independents vote heavier for his opponent.

CA-16: This district is D+7 on VBMs. In 2014, when Jim Costa barely hung on the VBMs were D+11. I'm not saying that Jim Costa is in trouble. I'm saying that the electorate is more Republican than it was in 2014 when he almost lost. It's not hard to draw a conclusion that he is in trouble, but the question again is what the voting patterns are for Republicans and independents.

CA-21: This district is also D+7. That’s less Democratic than the 2014 or 2016 electorates when David Valadao won by double digits.

CA-24: There are 48,8413 VBMs in here,18% of the total. Both of those are the highest among competitive districts. There are 11 more Democratic ballots than Republican ballots. It’s seriously that close. And the election could be that close.

CA-25: It was a very good day for Democrats. VBMs were only R+2, lowering the overall VBM number from R+9 to R+8. The primary was also R+8. Steve Knight was barely ahead there and he probably won’t win if the VBM returns are in the R+4-5 range. Based on VBMs Steve Knight is in the most trouble of any Republican.

CA-39: There were 2,512 Republican ballots added and1,655 Democratic ones. The VBMs remain at R+18, still excellent for Young Kim.

CA-45: The VBMs were R+16, moving the overall number from R+18 to R+17. Mimi Walters wins with an electorate like that.

CA-48: The VBMs were R+13, moving the overall number from R+18 to R+17, still fine for Dana Rohrabacher.

CA-49: There were only Orange County VBMs added. Those were R+19. So the electorate moves to R+13. That should go down when the next San Diego county VBMs are added but we’re at 10.5% of all VBMs right now, plenty of which are from San Diego. The primary electorate was R+1. The expert opinion is that Diane Harkey has no shot. I can’t see how that’s the case with an R+13 VBM return.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

California VBM Ballots Still Great for GOP

PDI has updated the VBM ballots returned so my spreadsheet is updated. Thank you, PDI. You make a numbers geek like me happy.

Statewide the total number of VBMs increased by 41%. The returns went from 3.4% of all VBM ballots mailed to 4.8%. Day to day statewide changes aren’t that telling because some days more Democratic or more Republican counties might be reporting. Ballots returned were only D+5, 41%D/36%R, decreasing the returned from D+8 to D+7. Since the statewide Democratic ballot advantage is D+19 you’d normally expect it to move in the other direction when it’s only D+8. That hasn’t been the case so far.

CA-10 went from D+1 to E
CA-16 went from R+1 to D+6
CA-21 went from D+17 to D+12

There’s a lot of change here, because these are districts that, for the most part, haven’t reported a lot of returns and they can be heavily influenced by Republican leaning counties reporting but not Democratic leaning counties and vice-versa. All these numbers are good for the GOP, however, if they want to win these three districts.

Of the remaining competitive districts, the only change was CA-48 going from R+19 to R+18 and CA-49 going from R+14 to R+12. Both of these movements are relatively small and don’t really impact the Republican advantage.

CA-49 was R+1 in the primary and R+8 in 2016, so it should definitely move toward the Democrats as more San Diego County ballots come in. The VBM return percentage went from 5.0% to 9.3% in this district, so that’s not a lot of movement considering they nearly doubled the ballots. Even with so many San Diego county ballots added the ballot differential was still R+9.

Based on what we’re seeing so far, I still don’t see Democrats flipping any districts, although there aren’t enough CA-10 ballots in to make a strong judgment.

CA-7, 16, and 24 should be close with the ballot return differentials they currently have, although CA-16, like CA-10 has a low return rate. CA-24, on the other hand, has already seen 11% of their ballots returned, with almost an equal number of Republican and Democratic ballots.

The only data I have for time is from the 2018 primary. Fortunately, it’s the election that best approximates environment. Go to the right side of the spreadsheet and you can compare 15 days out from the primary and general elections. Republicans did better after the 15 day out date than before. So if that’s any indication these return differentials shouldn’t move toward the Democrats.Of course, the numbers are so bad for Democrats you’d think they really would have to.

I continue to believe that Democrats will beat the ballot return differential by winning NPP voters in most districts. So Republicans will need to beat the differential by at least 5 points outside the Central Valley.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

This is a Democratic Year, Isn't It?

If you look at the VBM margins in California, you see that the margins are almost universally more Republican than the 2016 primary, 2016 general, and 2018 primary. They are closer to the 2014 general, a very Republican year in California.

That leads to the question, “What f*&# is going on?” The fundamentals (Republican President) suggest a Democratic year. Election results and polling have been pretty Democratic. I say pretty Democratic but nothing other than the generic congressional vote points to a blue wave. And even that’s been up and down.

Explanation #1: It won’t be a blue wave, at least in California. The only vote that counts is the one that includes actual ballots and the actual ballots are Republican. I go with Occam’s Razor in that the answer supported by the most evidence is the answer.

Explanation #2: But this doesn’t jibe with other things we know. So even though Republicans are turning in ballots they’re really voting for Democrats. I find this one hard to believe. I covered it in a previous post.

NPPs are going to lean Democratic. Evidence supports this. In CA-25 VBMs in the 2016 general were R+4 and the Republican won by 6.2. In the 2018 primary VBMs were $+8.4 but the Republican only won by 3.6. In most of the Southern California districts Democrats did 4-6 points better than VBMs. While that was historically better than they’ve done, this is also a different environment. The primary and general election should follow similar patterns.

But, and this is a big but, if you do 4-6 points better than the VBMs your ballot margin deficit better be at least in the R+4-6 range. Right now CA-39 is R+20 and CA-48 is R+19. Democrats aren’t winning NPP voters by enough votes to overcome those ballot deficits.

Explanation #3: Republicans just vote early. Before 2016 this was true. Republicans voted overwhelmingly in VBM ballots and Democrats caught up later. Democrats realized that they were wasting their resources. Republicans didn’t have to knock on doors or call people who already voted. And they knew these people had voted.

I wanted to check this against actual data. I have 18 days out for the primary. Granted, it’s only one data set but it’s also the only data set in the current environment. So I compared the ballot differential for the primary and general 18 days out and looked to see how the 18 days out numbers compared to the final numbers. Scroll to the right on the Google spreadsheet to see it. (Note; I included only the districts I’m tracking that I’m confident have results that reflect that whole district)

I found that the ballot differential in 12 of the 13 districts is more Republican 18 days out and the 13th, CA-31, was D+6 then and D+6 in this election. What’s more, 8 of the 13 districts actually had differentials that became more Republican by the final tally. Of the other 5, 3 remained the same and 2 became more Democratic. Twelve of the 13 districts moved 3 points or less and the 13th, became 4 points more Republican.

If the pattern holds, CA-39 isn’t going from R+20 to R+5. It might go from R+20 to R+17.

It could be different this time but there’s no evidence to support that. And if you’re someone who clings to a belief without evidence, why read this whole post? I’m looking at the numbers to try to figure out what they mean. If the numbers don’t correlate to final result, then there’s no point in looking at them. Just look elsewhere and come back after election day.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

California VBM Returns Tell Us What?

I haven't posted in a while. I've largely abandoned blogging because I haven't had the time. I have some insight you won't read anywhere else. So read on. We all want to know to be able to read the tea leaves and know what the election results are going to be in advance. California allows us to do a little bit of reading, because a lot of votes are VBM. When they arrive at a county registrar, the counties transmit that a voter has voted to the state. Political Data gets all that information and lists the party affiliation of the voters by congressional district. I've compiled their information by congressional district here.

The linked chart gives you the data for the last four elections, the 2018 primary, 2016 general election, 2016 primary, and 2014 general election. The first column is difference in VBM returns between the parties. The second column is the final vote margin, for all votes, not just VBMs. The third column is the difference. If the number is positive it's for the Democrats and negative for Republicans. In CA-3 Democratic ballots were returned +3, 44% of them were Democratic and 41% Republican, and the Democrat won by 5 points.

There isn't a one to one correlation between the two numbers and it isn't constant. But the ranges have been pretty steady. CA-7 has usually had a very close relationship. Raul Ruiz has greatly outproduced the VBM returns in CA-36.

I make an assumption that Democrats vote for the Democrat and Republicans vote for the Republican. If the difference between VBM ballots and the final result don't match, then one of two things happened. The election day ballots were a bit different than the VBM ballots and NPP voters favored one candidate. Look at CA-39. In the 2014 general, 2016 primary, and 2016 general Ed Royce outperformed VBM returns. NPP voters likely favored him. That wasn't the case in the 2018 primary. Democrats did 3.6% better than ballot returns.

That leads to my next assumption. Let's look at CA-49. In 2014, Darrell Issa did 2.4% better than the VBMs. In the three subsequent elections Democrats did 2.7% better, 7.4% better, and 4.0% better. I'm assuming that the results will be between the top and bottom numbers. The past numbers are probably indicative of the future and we have no reason to think either party will do better. The 2016 primary numbers are ones I'd emphasize since they are most indicative of the environment we're in. The numbers of the 2016 primary and general elections are closest to each other in many districts.

So Gil Cisneros is unlikely to win the election if the VBMs are more Republican than R+3.6. Democrats really outperformed the VBM margin in CA-45, so Mimi Walters is in serious trouble if the returns are less than R+9.6.

Are my assumptions faulty? Are yours better? Great. The data is the data. Read the data and use your assumptions.

The numbers on the right tell us the return rate so far. In CA-3, Democrats have returned 3.2% of their VBM ballots, Republicans have returned 4.0% of theirs and NPP voters have returned 2.2%. Some districts have very low return rates listed. This may not be because people haven't returned their ballots but because all the counties in the district haven't reported or have reported little. These district results should be ignored until there's more data.

One of the most notable things we can see is that Republicans are returning their ballots in greater numbers. The average in the districts listed is that Democrats have returned 4.8% of their ballots, while Republicans have returned 6.4% of theirs. Republicans in these districts are returning them at a rate that's 35% higher than Democrats. The number is 85% higher in CA-16 but only 4% higher in CA-21. As I said above, these districts should be disregarded. The more Republican counties in CA-16 have probably reported while the more Democratic counties in CA-21 have.

The return differentials in many of these districts are close to the 2014 election than any other election. It's possible some of these Republicans are voting Democratic. That seems unlikely because:

1. Republicans have been abandoning the Republican party in California. Those left are likely committed to the GOP.
2. Republicans have given Donald Trump very high approval ratings.
3. They didn't in previous elections.
4. If you're a Republican voting Democratic, it's probably something you're wrestling with. You're not rushing to get your ballot in early.

Regardless of who they are voting for that Republicans are voting at much higher rates than Democrats goes completely against conventional wisdom that suggests Republicans aren't enthusiastic and Democrats are. Many of the districts Democrats are looking to flip have more Republicans in them than Democrats so Democrats need to do vote at a much higher rate than Republicans and get NPP and some Republican voters to pick them. So far they aren't doing the former and we don't know for sure they are doing the latter. The primary suggests Democrats have some advantage with these voters, but when you're dealing with a district that has significantly more Republicans than Democrats they'll need to do more than that.

If this type of turn out continues it seems unlikely Democrats will flip Republican districts and several Democratic districts (CA-3, 16, and 24, for example) that have been close in past elections could be close in this one. So watch PDIs numbers and my spreadsheet and make your own judgment.

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.