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Voting and Elections

January 19, 2010

Brown/Coakley, Healthcare, and Democrats

Posted by tunesmith at 06:39 PM

At the time I'm writing this, Brown has a solid lead over Coakley in Massachusetts (I just misspelled it and corrected it) with 2/3 of precincts reporting.

Here are my predictions going forward.

  • Brown will win and be seated as the 41st Republican Senator.
  • Democrats will not attempt to rush the health care bill through conference before Brown gets seated. The optics are horrible.
  • The House will pass the Senate bill, and Obama will sign it into law.
  • There will be some half-hearted attempts at reconciliation for some improvements.
  • Netroots will again get furious about whatever isn't in the bill going forward, or if the reconciliation bill isn't passed.
  • Progressives left and right will agree with Republicans more and more often that the Obama administration is a failure.

Beyond that, it's hard to say. I'm currently feeling pretty discouraged at the direction we're heading, and not for the reasons that many in the netroots aren't.

If I were to phrase it in a way that others would agree with, I'd say that Obama has done a piss-poor job at communicating with the base. If I were to phrase it in a more controversial way, I'd say he's done a piss-poor job at managing the base's expectations. The base is crazy, and that's about where I get off the train. Obama's failure is that he didn't neutralize the base. The base is basically agreeing with the Republicans that the health care bill is awful, and since Republicans are more set up to run against the Democrats than the base is, then that means Republicans get elected.

The base is wrong and stupid, but there's nothing to be done about that short of a massive education effort that won't get through to anyone. We've still got people arguing that dumping the current bill and starting over with reconciliation would be an improved approach, as if them saying it often enough makes it true, not paying attention to the fact that a reconciliation bill would do nothing for ridding society of medical bankruptcy. The Senate bill is a good bill, far better than a good bill, and it can be built upon. On a night like this it seems no one cares about that.

More later, I'm sure, as I get my head on straight again.

April 23, 2008

Democratic Rope-A-Dope

Posted by tunesmith at 08:11 PM

Once in a while it's fun to go on flights of fancy.

We're in a period of time right now, right after the Pennsylvania Primary, where Obama's victory looks assured, and Hillary's looking rather desperate given her only strategy is to concede the elected delegates, hope for a dubiously-counted popular vote lead, and expect that to convince the unclaimed superdelegates to move towards her en masse.

The press is loving it. Democrats in disarray! John McCain content to let them tear each other down!

And in the meantime, state after state has record Democratic turnout, with almost no Republican activity. New Democratic voters are being manufactured by the thousands.

It's enough to make you wonder.

Setting... deep in the bowels of the DNC, Hillary and Barack meet to go over their plan.

"Hi Hill."

"Hi Barry. Good job with the Jay-Z angle, I think the kids needed a boost."

"It was really a great idea of yours, thanks. And your debate performance kept up the fighting Dem image, nice job."

"Thanks. On to Indiana, hmm?"

"Looks like it. How are things on your end?"

"Good. Bill's keeping things interesting."

"He's proven really good at making news out of absolutely nothing."

"Mo' headline, mo' money. Right?"

"Well said."

"How's your end?"

"Great. I made some inroads on those demographics in Pennsylvania. Really good to have the practice against Republican tactics."

"I knew the dress rehearsal would do you good. How are things online?"

"Kos and Jerome are doing great shilling for both of us. Keeps the online world split. With Kos and Jerome being friends, I think it'll definitely help the healing when it's time."

"Good, good, that's good to hear. I'm so glad you're up on that stuff. I see a mouse, I stand on a chair!"

Both laugh deep and heartily. Then they say their goodbyes and until next times, and leave to prepare for another toughly fought primary that will undoubtedly register tens of thousands of more Democrats...

August 16, 2006

Lamont and Lieberman

Posted by tunesmith at 04:41 PM

Now that Lamont has defeated Lieberman in the primary, and has therefore properly and solely claimed the mantle of Connecticut's senatorial Democrat in the upcoming general election, I'm mystified at some of the calls for Lieberman to define himself.

Reed Hunt fantasizes about a statement that Lamont could make. Armando and mcjoan over at daily kos also look ahead to Lieberman's future.

To me, all seem excessively focused on Lieberman, even to the point of visualizing him being in the Senate next year. It gives Lieberman too much power to allow for that possibility, or even to give Lieberman the opportunity to define himself.

It seems to be a no-brainer for Lieberman to define himself as a Democrat. That's what he's done all along, and the Republicans are happy with him for it. There's really no great political cost for him to define himself as a Democrat, even aggressively so. He's in campaign mode, and he has a long career behind him of capitulating to Republicans, so I seriously doubt that it will turn off the few Republicans he needs to win.

I'm not sure if it's best to continue to emphasize the contrast between Lamont and Lieberman, or to simply ignore Lieberman entirely and focus on Lamont's strengths, but this whole bit about how emphasizing how Lieberman is also a Democrat seems dreadfully counterproductive to those who want him to lose.

September 10, 2005

2006 House Race

Posted by tunesmith at 06:39 PM


1a/b. To begin, suppose the elections for U.S. CONGRESS were being held TODAY ... Would you vote for the Republican Party's candidate or the Democratic Party's candidate (ROTATE) for Congress in your district? [IF OTHER/UNDECIDED, RESPONDENTS WERE ASKED] As of TODAY, do you LEAN more toward... the Republican or the Democrat (ROTATE)?


Rep/Lean Rep Dem/Lean Dem Undecided/Other

Current Total 38 50 12 =100

I just ran a quick and dirty analysis on the 2004 election. (Yay perl!)

In 2004, about 50.8 million people voted for Democratic House candidates.

About 54.3 million people voted for Republican House candidates.

Right now the GOP has the House, 231-202.

Given the percentage breakdown of the people voting, you'd expect the House breakdown to actually be 224-209 in favor of the GOP.  So the GOP has a significant gerrymandering advantage right now.  It's actually a bigger advantage than that because I didn't count any Green votes or Independent (Sanders) votes.

I'm unsure how to figure that advantage in mathematically.  But if the advantage is truly 7-10 seats, and the undecideds would break evenly, then a 56-44 split would normally mean Dems up 244-191.  The gerrymander would mean 234-201 in favor of the Dems, or basically a mirror image of where we are now.

I'm going to try a more mathematical way of figuring it out, though.  If we're going from 51.6% GOP to 44% GOP, that means about 14.7% of GOP votes would switch.  If I apply that to every congressional race nationwide, so that 14.7% of the GOP votes become Dem votes, then I get 33 switched seats, which would mean a Dem advantage of 235-198.

That's honestly more responsive than I thought.  However, while this does take gerrymandering into account, it does not take into account the incumbency advantage, which would help protect the republicans from some of those losses.

May 25, 2005

Future Electoral College Breakdown

Posted by tunesmith at 05:49 PM

Kos has an interesting article about how population growth will change the balance of power among the states in the Electoral College. Seems many of the currently red states will gain power in the E.C., while the blue states will lose power.

Read the Wall Street Journal article he links to, because it answers many obvious questions about it. It doesn't really mean that Democrats are in danger - in fact, it could be a huge advantage to the Democrats, because higher populations usually trend Democratic. If Florida becomes reliably Democratic, then it could be tough for the Republicans in the future. Then again, it might be nothing, because both parties change identities on demand as populations change.

What would be more interesting is to compare the E.C. breakdown in future years with the projected national vote, and see if it becomes even more out of whack. If so, it's yet another reason to expand the number of Representatives in the House of Reps. It would make the E.C. be more representative of the national popular vote.

Update: I don't have time to do it, but here's how it would work. You take a look at the 2000 or 2004 election results. For each state, you find the percentage of total state population that voted for the Republican and Democrat, as well as the number of people who voted, total. You apply that to the 2010, 2020, and 2030 decades to equalize for those reapportionments.

Then for 2000 or 2004, you take the percentage of voters that voted for each candidate, for each state. By applying that to the state's Electoral Votes, you get the percentage of Electoral Votes ("Electoral Power") that each candidate got. By doing this for all states, you can figure out the amount of raw Electoral Power each candidate got. You compare this to the national popular vote to see how out of whack the Electoral College's underlying physics are compared to the popular vote.

Then you do the same for the future decades. When you've finished, you can see how an identical party breakdown compares under different apportionment scenarios. If the split between raw Electoral Power and popular vote is wider in the future, then that's bad news.

March 19, 2005

Exit Poll Echoes

Posted by tunesmith at 02:59 PM

Given that this weblog is about politics and technology, we'll occasionally be delving into polling matters. Your author took a fairly active part in the exit poll and vote counting controversy over at DailyKos. My main schtick was to doggedly try and manage expectations. Among my main points:

  1. The exit poll controversy was hardly the rock-solid proof of vote fraud that many progressives were claiming it to be.
  2. The election results reflected pre-election polling more than many progressives wanted to admit.
  3. Kerry's chances of getting Ohio from a recount were lower than many progressives wanted to believe.

Needless to say, my arguments were unpopular, but I was coming to the debate as a fellow progressive, and tried to back up my views with evidence. Also, I tried to show respect - I had no interest in mocking the people that disagreed with me, because these are causes that people invest their lives in.

The debates in the election aftermath seemed to follow a common theme, though. Generally, conclusions were outpacing fact-gathering. Conviction was outpacing education. And there was frankly a huge emotional component to it that would take a psychologist to unlace responsibly. Suffice it to say that people were, at times, replacing their grieving process with misplaced activism. This was very frustrating, even thought everyone on the progressive side was very disappointed with the results.

It didn't help that we were trying to wrestle with fairly dense subject material, like the techniques behind exit polling. My own arguments were regularly wrong, but I think they also tended to be closer to the truth than a lot of the theories out there.

Which brings us to some recent news regarding the exit polling controversy, courtesy of MyDD, Ruy Teixeira, and DemFromCT:

First, the Social Science Resource Council (SSRC) has released a summary of the exit poll controversy named A Review of Recent Controversies Concerning the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Polls (pdf). It's informative, only 18 pages, and does not take sides - an excellent summary. It's a great way to avoid the monstrosity (pdf, 77 pages) that is Edison/Mitofsky's report on the same matter.

For those that want a super-brief summary, here is my take:

  • The leaked exit poll data did not mean what the blogosphere thought it meant.
  • Aside from that, the leaked exit poll data was flawed anyway.
  • Edison/Mitofsky's response to the flaw was to say, "Well, it could have been because of different shyness levels among question respondents...".
  • Edison/Mitofsky did not address fraud as a possibility.
  • Fraud remains a viable hypothesis (nothing more).
  • The hypothesis could be tested with the release of the raw exit poll data.
  • Edison/Mitofsky is refusing to do so, on the grounds that doing so could reduce the effectiveness of future exit polling - this is a valid point, but it's arguable that it's valid enough to counterbalance the need to test the fraud hypothesis.

I personally support the release of the raw exit poll data. I wouldn't know what the hell to do with it, and I cringe at the thought of some of the self-professed statistical "experts" going through it, but I believe it would be worth it and would increase the public trust in our elections.

Second, many of you may remember a raging controversy among the progressive polling crowd, regarding the "weighting of Democrats versus Republicans". Polls would routinely come out showing Bush ahead of Kerry, and the criticism was constantly that the polling outfits simply asked too many Republicans what they thought, and not enough Democrats - which would inflate Bush's support and deflate Kerry's.

The problem is that some of the polling outfits would not release the party breakdown of their polls. That is changing. Mystery Pollster received this notice from Gallup:

As far as I know, Gallup has no history over the last 70 years of routinely posting the party ID composition of each survey we conduct, just as we routinely don't report ideology and a lot of other measures regularly asked in each survey. As noted, we send the party ID composition percentages to anyone who is interested (actually, we really don't get that many requests for them). But since this seems to be an area in which there is perhaps bourgeoning interest, we'll probably start posting them on our website for each survey, along with rolling trends and some explanations of how Gallup measures party ID and what it's significance is.

And this notice from Pew:

Given the evolution of the dialogue on the subject - for which MysteryPollster deserves a lot of credit -- and the greater understanding among political observers regarding the perils of weighting party ID to an arbitrary parameter (clearly illustrated by the party ID distribution on Election Day 2004), we will begin posting party ID and its trend in our toplines in future survey releases.

What's the irony about all this? Progressives were angry that the pollsters were not weighting their polls to historical Democrat/Republican percentages, where Democrats outnumbered Republicans. And then on Election Day, the breakdowns ended up being much more Republican than they were historically. So, before Election Day, the "Bush-biased" polls, while still biased towards Bush, were closer to the truth than we thought, anyway.

At any rate, the extra transparency is a good thing.

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