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.