Sunday, November 16, 2008

House rehab project going great!

Second in a series of reflections on the 2008 election

It appears that when the dust finally settles from this election , the Democrats will net a gain of about 23 seats in the U.S. House. This means that in 2009, Democrats will hold an advantage of about 259 to 176 over the Republicans. A majority this large means that in the House next year, most substantive policy arguments will not be between Democrats and Republicans. The political argument will be among Democrats themselves, with progressives squaring off against the more conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs.

This is a good thing. As far as I'm concerned, the Republican Party should remain completely marginalized as long as its core principles continue to be warmongering, greed, bigotry, environmental destruction and spending money like drunken sailors.

That Democrats were able to pick up more than 20 House seats this year while minimizing losses demonstrates a triumph of strategy and tactics. Democrats had gained 30 seats in the 2006 elections, and three more in special elections this year. Thus they had already made most of the gains they could hope to make among House seats held by Republicans in less-conservative districts. This year, Democrats ambitiously targeted House seats that are more staunchly Republican. Republican themselves were forced to admit that few if any of their incumbents were completely safe this year, given that their party's brand had been so completely discredited by President Bush as well as a lot of GOP elected officials who tied themselves closely to Bush's policies.

Here, in no particular order, are some observations on this year's House races from around country.

* The GOP has ceased to be a force in the northeast. Republicans now hold 3 of New York's 29 seats, down from 10 in 2004, and zero of New England's 23 seats, down from 5 in 2004.

* Virginia swung from giving Bush a 10-point victory in 2004 to a 5-point victory for Obama this year. Successfully targeting Virginia paid big dividends down the ballot, as Democrats picked up three House seats there.

* California continues to be the textbook model of the "incumbent protection plan." During the last redistricting in 2001, as a compromise measure the state legislature redrew its districts in such a way as to virtually guarantee each of the state's 53 House seats for one party or the other. In 2004, zero seats changed hands. One did so in 2006, and this year the number will again be zero or one.

* Demonstrating that no Republican seat is safe: Democrats picked up two of the most conservative seats in the entire country: AL-02 and ID-01. Yes, Idaho. It looks like us crazy liberals of the Pacific Northwest are finally starting to bleed into super-conservative Idaho. Wyoming is now the only state without at least one Democratic Congressman or Senator. Look out, Wyoming!

* The GOP this year took away 4 Democratic seats after failing to take a single seat in 2006. But even these four are nothing to shout about. First of all, all four seats were held by freshman Democrats who had taken their districts away from the Republicans in 2006. Second, in all four races there were extenuating circumstances:
FL-16: Only went GOP because of a Democratic scandal.
KS-02: Novice Dem ran an incompetent campaign.
LA-06: Democrat was torpedoed by another Dem running as a third-party independent.
TX-22: Super-Republican district we won in 2006 only because no Republican was on the ballot after Tom Delay's retirement.

Finally, a prediction: We are probably headed for an era when very few House seats change hands in each election. Democrats have picked up most of the seats they ever will in moderate-to-conservative areas, while the GOP is simply not making inroads anywhere.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obama's perfect game

First in a series of reflections on the 2008 election

"The election of the first African-American President of the United States is an extraordinary and historic moment, not only for our country, but also for the world, where it will serve as a beacon of empowerment across societies. This victory represents a new promise, a realization of the long-held dreams of generations of Americans who have fought and continue to fight against the ugliness of inequality in all its forms." -New York Governor David Paterson

Ok, there's my eloquent quote regarding the significance of President-elect Obama's victory. Now I'll get back to business as usual on this blog: talking about campaigns, candidates, strategies and number-crunching.

I'll make this as succinct as possible: Obama's campaign was perfect. Let's review what the strategy was. First: win DC plus all of the 21 states won by either Gore in 2000 and/or Kerry in 2004. That represents 264 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

Second: Win Colorado and Nevada, or win at least one of the swing states in the east: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio or Virginia. Note that Obama was considered foolish by some to target all of these states, particularly North Carolina.

On November 4, Obama won all of the above. He also carried two and possibly all three of the "insurance" targets that he added to his strategy late in the campaign: Indiana, Missouri and Nebraska-02.

Here, in no particular order, are some other interesting facts regarding Obama, McCain, the polls, the results and the impact of the Presidential race.

* Obama's 50-state strategy of spending resources and engaging voters nationwide paid huge dividends. Democrats gained seats in most state legislatures this year. At the Congressional level, many Democrats in red states won their hard-fought races with the help of their local Obama office, which was furiously registering new voters and getting out the Democratic message.

* The McCain campaign failed miserably in the Northeast. This was the one region of the country where Obama had serious coattails. In New York for example, a 62%-37% victory by Obama was good enough for Democrats to capture three U.S. House seats as well as New York's state Senate.

* McCain captured only 31% of the Hispanic vote. This is down significantly from the 40% Bush received from Hispanics in 2004. George Bush as a candidate as well as his brother Jeb as Governor of Florida showed a remarkable talent for building up support among Hispanics for the Republican brand. It appears that support is fading fast.

* My most astute pick this year was Obama taking Indiana. The aggregate of polls showed Obama losing Indiana 50%-48%, but I suspected Obama would win because of the results of the Democratic primary in Indiana this past Spring. In that contest, Obama far outperformed expectations due to support from the Lake counties, which are really suburban Chicago.

* And finally, a consolation prize for McCain: Louisiana loves you. This was the only state where the polls were significantly different from the final outcome, and furthermore, the only state that is arguably becoming more rather than less Republican. The polls suggested McCain would win Louisiana by about 10%. He instead won by almost 20%. Congratulations GOP, your bungled response to Hurricane Katrina has forced so many poor and middle-class Democrats to flee Louisiana that you can now guarantee victory in the Pelican state. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

2008 Election Predictions

Presidential, popular vote:

Obama 53.3%, McCain 45.7%

Analysis: While the current aggregate of national tracking polls shows Obama with a 6.1% lead in the popular vote, I believe that the final results will be close to those predicted by the Iowa Electronic Market. The IEM has recently been showing a 7.4% spread between the two candidates. Nationwide, we are heading for a Democratic landslide.

Here's a few important statistics to consider from states that have early voting:
2. As of Thursday 10/30: From Georgia: "Early voting is already 33% higher than 2004 numbers, and is equivalent to 31% of all votes cast in Georgia in 2004. Of early voters, 35% are African-American, compared to 25% of the total voting population in 2004. Also, nearly 56% of early voters are women, another excellent sign for Democrats." This explains why I think the national tracking polls showing Obama leading McCain by only 5-6% are showing the race as closer than it really is. I don't think that the models these pollsters are using are fully taking into account the dramatically higher turnout among Democrats, African-Americans and women this year.

Presidential, electoral vote: Obama 378, McCain 160
I'm calling 30 states plus DC for Obama and 20 for McCain. I'm pretty confident about all of these picks except Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska-02 and North Dakota.

U.S Senate

Democrats pick up 9 seats for a 60 to 40 seat majority
Most pundits, even the conservatives, are predicting that Democrats will pick up the these 8 Republican Senate seats: Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia. Al Franken in Minnesota has been in the weakest position among these races, but his opponent, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, is now drowning in a bribery scandal.

In addition to those 8 seats, I'll guess that Democrats will also pick up one of these three: Georgia, Kentucky or Mississippi. While none of the three Democratic challengers in these races are showing a lead in the polls, I think that the big turnout by African-Americans for Obama in southern states will produce some coattail victories. I'm not the only one who thinks this.
Here's an analysis discussing the possibility that pollsters are low-balling Democrat Jim Martin's support in Mississippi, and here's a pollster admiting that their own poll may be under-sampling African-Americans in the Lunsford-McConnell race in Kentucky.
Note also that there's a good chance that the Georgia race will go to a December run-off. That would be one wild race, especially if Democrats are angling for a 60th Senate seat. Here's another update on early voting in Georgia, this one again demonstrating that voters there are going Democratic in much bigger numbers than the polls have indicated.

U.S. House

Democrats pick up 29 seats for a 265-168 majority
The most thorough analysis I can find is predicting a gain of only 26, but I've seen a lot of good news for Democratic candidates in the last week or so. I also feel good enough about the four races on my wish list to predict victory in all of them.

Washington: Incumbent Democrat Christine Gregoire to defeat Republican Dino Rossi. In 2004, Rossi got enough crossover support from Democratic voters to nearly defeat Gregoire despite the fact that John Kerry beat George Bush by 7% here. This year however, Obama is leading McCain in Washington by at least 12%. Rossi isn't going to beat that spread.

North Carolina and Missouri: Democrats to narrowly hold the open seat in North Carolina, and pick up Missouri.

California Prop. 8 (Repeals gay marriage): DEFEATED!
Prop. 8 was gaining ground up until recently due to a furious campaign paid for by the Mormon church. However, the controversy generated by this effort has caused the Saints to scale back their efforts to force their bigotry on everyone else, and recent polls suggest that Prop. 8 will lose.

New York State Senate
Democrats to gain the majority. I mention this because Republican control of the NY Senate (by one vote!) has been the only thing stopping NY Dems from making good on their intention to legalize gay marriage. Another giant step for equality!

To everyone who has read my blog this year, thank you. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.