Showing posts with label 2010 Senate Races. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2010 Senate Races. Show all posts

Friday, June 11, 2010

South Carolina's Alphabetical Disorder

This is out of FHQ's wheelhouse, but we have, like many others, been intrigued by the events surrounding the Democratic nomination race for Senate in South Carolina this week. To a fault -- or perhaps not -- I have been trained to both resist simple answers and play devil's advocate. At the same time, I'm also hesitant to latch onto conspiracy theories. In other words, FHQ has not subscribed to either the alphabetical order argument nor does it necessarily accept the "Republican plant" argument that Jim Clyburn has been pushing the last couple of days. To me, something else is up with this race and it rests somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

John Sides over at The Monkey Cage has looked into the alphabetical explanation:
"And I’m not sure that the potential ballot order effect is implausibly large. Assume for the moment that voters were essentially choosing at random between the candidates. That would imply a 50-50 outcome. The actual outcome was 58-41, which only implies that 8-9% of voters were influenced by ballot margin."
The only thing that bothers me about that line of reasoning -- and I find it sound -- is that the 2008 Senate nomination race, as folks within the South Carolina Democratic Party have pointed out, was between two equally unknown candidates statewide and the result was a near draw. However, if one is looking for ballot order effects between two unknown candidates, the 2008 race may have been mitigated by the fact that both candidates had very similar last names. Michael Cone and Bob Conley. Conley won 50.36-49.64 and went on to lose to Lindsey Graham in November.

So what else could explain the out-of-nowhere performance Alvin Greene turned in on Tuesday? Some have speculated that race was also a factor; that somehow Greene's name may have tipped off voters in a primary electorate that is overwhelmingly African American. Again, this one is tough to isolate. Sides also examined the relationship between the share of the vote that Greene got across each of South Carolina's 46 counties and the percentage of each county that was African American in the 2000 Census. There was a slight relationship there, but as Sides points out, it wasn't statistically significant.

But let's try and find some middle ground between the simple explanations and the conspiracy theories. This one is just too fishy to me, and here's why. If one wants to find some irregularities, one has to go looking for them. My thought was to look at the turnout numbers from Tuesday. First of all, Greene lost four of 46 counties statewide and cleared 60% in 29 of those 42. That seems more systematic than random. But let's assume that it was random for a moment and keep poking around. The other oddity is that turnout among Democrats was actually up compared to the Democratic primaries of 2006 and 2008. Those two elections were -- at least nationally -- cycles that favored Democrats while 2010 does not. The numbers in 2010 were actually comparable to the Senate race in 2004 which saw Inez Tenenbaum, the state's Education Superintendant, emerge with the nomination. But she was a known quantity while neither Vic Rawl nor Alvin Greene were in 2010.

Total Turnout (Democratic primaries):

Fine. Turnout was up in an otherwise down year for Democrats (nationally). So what? That doesn't mean anything is going on in South Carolina. No, it doesn't, but let's have a look at the county by county numbers (click on View All Data) in 2010 versus 2008 and see if there is any pattern to the vote increases. The problem here is that the raw vote totals in each county cannot be used. What I did then was look at each county's share of the statewide Democratic vote total in the Senate primaries in each election cycle. This percentage is a means of pseudo-standardizing the measure. The 2008 percentage was then subtracted from the 2010 percentage. In turn, that gives us an idea of which counties increased their total vote shares the most. My thought when I started this exercise was that if any ballot boxes were going to be stuffed (or machines tampered with), the best place to hide it would be in high vote areas. I quickly glanced through the data for all 46 counties and saw that a disproportionate number of the gainers -- those states that gained the greatest share of the vote from 2008 to 2010 -- were the most populous states. In fact, of the top ten gainers, seven were among the top ten most populous counties. Additionally, the gains across all of the top 10 most populous counties (distinct from the top ten gainers) accounted for over 24,000 votes or about 80% of the more than 30,000 margin by which Greene won.

While this seems to indicate that something might be amiss in the most population dense areas of the state, there are two big problems with this experiment.

1) Now it is true that there seems to be a pattern here; that more populous counties were more likely to see above average gains in their share of the statewide total. But that just accounts for the difference between 2008 and 2010. What if that is a typical trend from cycle to cycle? As a simple check I did the same exercise but compared the difference between the Democratic Senate primaries of 2004 and 2008 (see footnote below for explanation on 2006). The population-based pattern exhibited in the changes from 2008 to 2010 was non-existent in the change over from 2004 to 2008. The latter had no real detectable pattern and indeed looked quite randomly distributed. In the 2004-2008 example, only three of the top ten most populous were among the states that gained in terms of their share of the statewide vote from one Senate cycle to the next. There may be something here.

2) There may be something here, but we've left out one important part. It's fine for those counties to have gained a larger share of the total statewide vote from 2008 to 2010, but how did Greene actually perform in those counties? This is where the wheels come off this explanation somewhat. Greene actually underperformed his statewide average of 59% in the ten most populous counties. The mystery candidate garnered only 57.5% in those ten counties. The raw votes increased, in other words, but that didn't translate into Greene or someone acting behind the scenes stuffing the ballot box on his behalf.

Is this the end of the road for this idea? No, I think there still may be something here, but that there needs to be a greater focus on some sort of an interaction between the percentage urban and percentage black for each county. If there is a large degree of overlap between the two, that likely punches some holes in the racialized argument. But South Carolina is still part of the South and urban doesn't necessarily mean black in the way it does in other states with major metropolitan areas.

If there is some conspiracy here, whoever is behind it left some clues behind but didn't make anything easy on the slew of political scientists who are acting like CSI forensics experts with this thing. In the meantime, FHQ will keep digging and let you know if we turn up anything more.

*There was no Senate race in South Carolina in 2006. These numbers are from the top of the ticket race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Update: Tom Schaller over at FiveThirtyEight has much more.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MA Senate Special: Open Thread

FHQ obviously has not weighed in on this race since the primary set the stage early last month. Here we are, though, on yet another election day. The dynamics in this one have been interesting. In political science we operate under the assumption that there will be some tightening in the polls in any race as election day nears. However, in blue Massachusetts, with Ted Kennedy's seat on the line, the fact that Scott Brown has pulled even and even surpassed Martha Coakley in some polls exceeds even those expectations.

The polls are open (and close tonight at 8pm Eastern) and Bay staters are voting. What are your thoughts on how this race has progressed and who do you think will pull this thing out tonight (...or in the near future if we have to wait!?!)?

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Links (12/10/09)

1. John Thune has your gubernatorial presidential aspirations right here. the Senate. The South Dakota senator is still FHQ's 2012 darkhorse of the moment. I still think 2016 is more likely, though. If Thune is anything, it's shrewd.

2. South Carolina Republicans are like Idaho Republicans: They want closed primaries in the presidential delegate selection races in the Palmetto state.

3. Local fare: Cal Cunningham's chances in North Carolina depend on DSCC investment. his primary race against Elaine Marshall first (to even have a shot at Richard Burr).

4. State of Elections has another great redistricting reform post up. Read away.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Links (12/3/09)

1. Remember the Idaho Republican Party's complaint? Well, they are moving forward with their court case to close their primaries:
By January 15, the Republican Party will present a summary of the evidence it will be presenting at the upcoming trial. This will include a copy of the expert report by one of the party’s witnesses, Michael Munger, who is a professor of political science and an expert in political parties. Then, there will be another status conference on January 26 to set the details for the upcoming trial.
FHQ might try and pull some strings and get a hold of that report if possible.

2. What exactly happened to those Chris Daggett supporters on November 3? David Redlawsk (at the Eagleton Poll) has a go at explaining it.

3. The Democrats got their man in North Carolina to challenge Richard Burr. We'll see how that turns out. They thought they had their man in 2002 with Erskine Bowles. That didn't work out well in 2002.

...or 2004. But FHQ is on the ground here in the Old North state and has a vested interest in a competitive race.

4. Also, notice that State of Elections (the blog of the William and Mary Election Law Society) has been added to FHQ's blogroll. Welcome State of Elections.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

FHQ Friday Fun: You Can't Beat Louisiana Politics

There are so many double entendres in this interview that college students could start a drinking game.* Stormy Daniels could make this an uncomfortable race for David Vitter. No, she won't win, but she'll make a mark whether she enters or not.

And I'm still laughing uncontrollably at that Kim Jong-Il line for whatever reason.

*Not that FHQ would condone such a thing. For shame. But for a laugh, I recommend reading the rules of the Brent Musberger Drinking Game. FHQ dares college football fans not to laugh heartily.

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If it's a vote on the internet, Ron Paul wins.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Not That You're Reading Too Much into the PA Senate Polling, but...

I take issue with some of the "wide lead" talk concerning Arlen Specter's position in the Democratic primary polling relative to Joe Sestak. This isn't a new development: that I have an issue or that the media is talking up the numbers without digging terribly deeply into them. And for the record, Political Wire is technically right. It is a wide lead.

But is that what we should be focused on at this point in the race?

The margin isn't what matters. At this point, Specter's position in the polls relative to the 50% mark is what's important. And the Republican-turned-Democrat is hovering just over that point currently. The other thing to eye is the fluctuation in the level of undecideds in this race. That number is important because of a few things that are likely to keep the number higher [than they would be minus these factors]. First, this race involves a Republican-turned-Democrat. Secondly, Sestak has not "officially" entered the race. And finally, it is very early in the process.

So early in fact, that polling wasn't conducted nearly so soon in the cycle the last time an incumbent Pennsylvania senator was challenged in a primary. And for that information you have to stretch all the way back to 2004 when a political unknown, Arlen Specter, was challenged in the Republican primary by Pat Toomey. What pattern can we glean from that data?

First of all, polling on the Specter/Toomey race did not begin until the fall of 2003 before the April 2004 primary. Polling in May and June of 2009, then, precedes that point in the senate electoral cycle. The starting point is largely the same for the candidates in the polls, though. You can see the trendline here (see "Matchup Poll Graph" on the right side). But what OurCampaign provides is the polling without verification of the sources and without that undecided number. So let's look at the polling data and a better graphic of the trends from the fall of 2003 through primary day in Pennsylvania in late April of 2004.

The thing is that Specter jumped above the 50% mark in a few polls but for the most part was stuck just under 50% throughout. All the movement, not to mention momentum, was with Toomey across the five months of polling in the campaign. The more undecideds decided, the more Toomey gained on Specter among likely (Republican) voters in the closed Pennsylvania primary.

[Click to Enlarge]

If we contrast that with the average Pollster has for the six polls conducted in the last month and a half on this hypothetical Democratic primary race, we see that Sestak has already cut further into Specter's advantage without having even formally announced his intention to run. The 17 point advantage Specter now holds is more than half of what it was in the week after his switch to the Democratic party and all the Sestak talk began (The average of the three polls conducted during the first week in May had Specter up by 41 points.). The kicker is that that is with less than ten points having been cut off the undecideds value (The average undecided mark in those same three polls mentioned above was 21 points with the latest Rasmussen poll showing 13% undecided). In other words, Sestak is taking away from Specter more than he's picking up undecideds.

And it's still early (for polling in this race and for the levelling of wide lead charges).

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Charlie Crist Running for Senate or Vice President?

Obviously, the current Florida governor is running for Senate, but give me a chance to explain my thoughts on the vice presidency. [Then you can decide whether the link between the two is a stretch.]

First, we'll need to assume a couple of things.

For starters, everything below assumes that the primary calendar and rules will remain virtually unchanged between now and January 2012. We can argue all day about the likelihood of major reforms to the primary process, but for the sake of this exercise, let's assume that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada lead the way followed by Florida and then Super Tuesday.

We also need to assume that Charlie Crist not only takes the GOP nomination for Senate in the Sunshine state, but wins the general election as well.

At this point, these assumptions have a better than 50/50 shot of being the political reality in 2012 as I see it. [Likelihood of disagreement with those odds? 100%.] With that said, how does this get Crist closer to the vice presidency and why doesn't that improve the Florida governor's chances of gaining the GOP presidential nomination?

Well, all this started as a brainstorm that emerged from the comments to the Palin post the other day. The discussion there stretched from recent vice presidential nominees later running for presidential nominations to the importance of the 2012 primary calendar. And that got me thinking about Charlie Crist. As was the case in 2008, Crist's endorsement will be very much sought after in the race for the GOP nomination in 2012 due to the importance of Florida. But let me explain why I think that is.

First, 2012 will be a referendum on Obama. If the 44th president is well-liked, Republican primary voters will either vote for someone who can, in a Downsian sense, capture the ideological middle of the electorate or someone who offers a stark contrast with the current president. In other words, the GOP will either run toward the middle or go off toward the right. If we assume that the calendar remains the same, then, my bet is on the latter. And I'm not putting it past Obama's team or some surrogate(s) to cast a choice for the former -- at least during the primary phase -- as a choice for Obama-lite, a choice I think most Republican primary voters would potentially find unpalatable. [Of course, that could potentially ward off many of the more moderate candidates anyway. And it isn't as if that wing of the party is doing all that well at the moment in what should be dubbed the Specter War.]

That aside, though, why is a more conservative candidate more likely to emerge from the Republican side due to the calendar? Iowa and it's very conservative caucus electorate will be hugely important and will have a large say in who the nominee is. Yeah, that's not saying much. Iowa always has a disproportionate influence over the process given its position. But depending on who runs, Iowa could have an even greater impact. If Huckabee runs, he'll be expected to turn the same trick he did in 2008. If the former Arkansas governor opts out to wait on 2016, then Iowa becomes more important.

Here's why: If Mark Sanford runs, South Carolina's impact will likely be minimized. Nevada faces the same issue if Sen. John Ensign decides to run as well, but Nevada has to worry about timing as well. If the Silver state's primary coincides with South Carolina's primary again, that'll be a double whammy against GOP caucus-goers in Nevada.

Well, what about New Hampshire? Ah, the Granite state. Romney is far from a favorite regional son (former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, but with roots in Michigan and Utah), but my hunch is that Romney will be expected to do well there and will likely be positioned well enough to do so. Does that mean a win is a sure thing? No, but he'll be in good shape to claim the primary.

Any one of those states could have an unbiased influence on the states to follow minus their favorite sons or past winners (and not all will be viable if they choose to run), but there are reasons to believe there could be a massive split heading into Florida.
  • Huckabee could very well win Iowa again.
  • It isn't a stretch to see Romney winning New Hampshire either. He did place second there in 2008.
  • Sanford is still seen as a legitimate dark horse right now and could become just legitimate by 2012.
  • And it isn't out of the question for a local candidate to do well among a small caucus electorate like Ensign in Nevada. Would the senator even be considering this if Nevada wasn't so early in the process?
There are any number of combinations from the above possibilities, but let's assume that all that comes to pass and Florida becomes the de facto tie-breaker heading into Super Tuesday the next week. If you're Charlie Crist, what do you do?

"Hey! Florida is the decisive state here. I could win this thing!"


"Hey! Florida is the decisive state here. I could win this nomination, face a tremendously popular president and never be heard from again."

or (and this is the reason for the post)...

"Hey! Florida is the decisive state here. I could have a real influence over who becomes the nominee


First of all, the influence of endorsements (whether by political actors or newspapers) has still received a far smaller share of attention in the political science literature than it should have ( Rapoport, et al. (1991) pointed out), and the literature that does exist provides mixed results. But during the valuable invisible primary period, Cohen, et al. (2008) have recently found that endorsements matter as much if not more so than polling (though that is not statistically significant) to fundraising and subsequent electoral success. Regardless, it was the timing of Crist's endorsement of John McCain -- just prior to the Florida primary -- that made it so potentially powerful. And McCain's "just prior to the primary" endorsements -- Schwarzenegger and Crist among them -- seemed to have at least coincided with more primary success than, say, Barack Obama's endorsements from the likes of Ted Kennedy.

And Crist will likely have another chance to influence the nomination. Now, he could throw his hat in the ring himself, but he might be better served by throwing his weight around, successfully endorsing someone and parlaying that into a vice presidential nomination or a prime spot in the 2016 sweepstakes. My money is on the latter there. Crist is, at the very least, politically shrewd. Even if it takes some time, he has shown that he will pick his spots in order to advance his position politically. And 2012 may not be one of those spots. If he is so shrewd, he may want to avoid the vice presidential slot unless victory is a sure thing. Losing vice presidential nominees just have not done that well in winning their party's presidential nomination in subsequent cycles.

This isn't really about Crist and the vice presidency so much as it is about underlining the important role Florida -- and its high-profile Republican politicians -- will play in determining the next GOP nominee.

...if the calendar stays the same.

[Plus, such a post title is usually good for getting people's attention after a long holiday weekend.]

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Monday, May 18, 2009

When Did Primary Become a Verb?

Is it just me or is anyone else bothered by this recent bit of vernacular short-handery? For example, Merrick Alpert to Primary Senator Christopher Dodd. Is it that hard to say, "Merrick Alpert to Challenge Senator Christopher Dodd in a Primary?" Or better yet, "Merrick Alpert to Challenge Sen. Chris Dodd in a Primary?" I mean, there are two examples of already established short-hand. And why is the use of the verb primary confined to this particular race? [I've seen it used elsewhere, too.] It all just seems as silly as the Republicans calling the Democratic Party the Democrat Party or the Democrats childishly responding by calling the GOP the Republic Party.

Of course, what should not be lost in this curmudgeonly rant is that Chris Dodd is being challenged in next year's Connecticut senate primary by a former aide of Al Gore's.

Hat tip: Political Wire [See, they got it right. "Dodd Draws Primary Challenge." Oh fine, rant over.]

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Open Thread: Specter Switch

Well, Pennsylvania got slightly bluer today with Arlen Specter's surprising, yet not-so-surprising shift into the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. The way things were going, this was likely the only choice Specter had.

...if he was/is still interested in working in the Senate. Twenty-one points down is twenty-one points down. That's a tough row to hoe when you are talking about an incumbent and a primary polling deficit. Not that Chris Dodd is in an ideal position, but at least his polling deficit is against a potential general election opponent in 2010; not quite as threatening. Specter, I'm sure, saw the writing on the wall.

Here's one: Seth Masket over at Enik Rising sums the move up nicely.

Here's another from Josh Marshall (via Seth): I completely forgot that Pennsylvania is a closed primary state. That certainly would have made Specter's prospects of re-election that much dimmer if he would have continued on that route.

Yet another: Michael Steele on Specter's departure. (h/t GOP12 for the link)

While we're on Specter, let me add a funny anecdote to this discussion:
A couple of summers ago I took a grading gig within the department to help out one of our faculty members. It was an intro to American government class made up completely of incoming freshmen. So this was their first college experience. Following a week of lectures on the branches of government and their attendant checks and balances we had an exam. One of the questions asked was about the checks between Congress and the Supreme Court. We had that week discussed Senate confirmation of judicial appointments and nestled in that discussion was a side note about Specter's role in the Clarence Thomas hearings -- specifically his questioning of Anita Hill and the backlash that created. Now, you have the proper context, but it took me a while in the midst of reading all these exams to figure out who one the students was referring to when mentioning Karl Inspector.

Karl Inspector?

Then the light bulb came on: Oh, Arl-en Spector.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

There Are Deciders and Then There Are...

Not Deciders.


[Not Decider]

Is it me or is the inevitability of Charlie Crist's "I'm running for Senate" announcement not similar to the drawn out process that was Fred Thompson's presidential announcement in 2008? For the record, I think Crist will fare much better than the former Tennessee senator turned actor turned presidential aspirant turned actor.

NOTE: It is also about time we put to rest the idea that the pictured hand gesture above is a prerequisite of being a decider.

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More Texas-less Fun