Democrats Recount Dreams

isIf Jill Stein, and Democrats, had their way this election would have turned out very, very differently.  Instead, the party is left chasing dreams of a recount leading to a surprise Clinton victory in 3 states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The rules for recounts in all 3 states vary.  Wisconsin law automatically calls for a recount only if the vote count is less than .25 percent.  Since Jill Stein lost by more than the required .25 percent she must pay for the costs of a recount.  Michigan and Pennsylvania only conduct recounts at taxpayer expense if a campaign presents evidence of voter fraud or proof of some sort of malfeasance.

Enter conspiracy theorists stage left.  Well, not exactly conspiracy theorists.  Rather, a group of election lawyers and computer scientists.  According to a Tuesday report from New York Magazine, this group approached the Clinton camp with evidence they believe suggests the Electoral College was rigged towards Donald Trump due to hacking.

The  article reports that a group that includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and computer scientist J. Alex Halderman presented findings last week about Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to top Clinton campaign officials to try to persuade them to call for a recount.  Until Saturday it appeared the Clinton camp was unwilling to participate in the recounts.  However, they are now backing Stein’s recount efforts in Wisconsin.

Interestingly enough, the NYM article cites just one example of voter fraud even possibly occurring.  Wisconsin counties that used electronic voting machines favored Trump more than non-electronic voting machine counties.  As of this writing there is no clear indication of what the group is using to validate a recount in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

But in a Medium post on Wednesday, Halderman said the New York article “includes some incorrect numbers” and misrepresented his argument for recounts. According to Halderman, he laid out an argument based not on any specific suspicious vote counts but on evidence that voting machines could be hacked, and that using paper ballots as a reference point could help determine if there were hacks.  Well, while we are indulging coulds…

Considering this, we are forced to wonder what could drive a recount.  Michigan uses paper ballots read by an optical scanner (like my home state of Idaho’s Ada County) so that crosses them off the list.  The machines are never connected to the Internet at any time.

That left only a few states that fit the criteria for qualifying for a recount and being worth examining for a vote discrepancy based on type of voting method used.

The data magicians at FiveThirtyEight were kind enough to oblige and examined Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.  These states were all decided by less than 10 points and had a mix of electronic and paper voting.

The findings were less than spectacular for those who allege ballot fraud occurred.  Only 2 states, TX and Wisconsin showed any significant effect.  In Wisconsin, counties that used electronic voting favored Trump by 5.6 percent more than non-electronic voting counties.  In Texas, counties that used electronic voting methods actually favored Clinton by 2.7 percent.  However, when weighted by population the effects disappear.

Nevertheless, calls for recounts due to conspiracy theories and “democracy being stolen” abound.  And, by no means, are these theories only floating around Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Just look at this gem.  Here you have it folks, proof the election was rigged.  Nevermind the results had not been finalized meaning the tally was unofficial.  Likewise, this same “report” has alleged that Florida impossibly went for Trump on election day.  Making it worse, Trump won all his close states by “close margins.”  Stop the presses.  Trump stole the election.

This is just 1.  I could probably find 10 more from supposedly “reputable” sources.  The simple fact is there is not a shred of evidence the election was stolen from Clinton.  If it was, don’t you think the Trump campaign would want to win the popular vote too?  If they could change dozens of machines in at least 4 states why could they not pull it off and pad his margins in redder than red states like Texas?  What would it hurt to win Texas like Romney instead of by a mere 9 points?

Without a shred of evidence Democrats are left to rely on Jill Stein and a “group” of experts to show fraud occurred where there is no evidence it did.  Good luck with that.




The Electoral College Map Favored Republicans For Once

Since 2004, Republicans have griped that the Electoral College map is stacked against them. Even in Bush’s commanding victory he only carried 286 Electoral votes and lost states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The nomination of Donald Trump was expected to shake up the old red/blue divide because of his appeal to blue-collar whites. To a degree it did. David Byler over at RCP put together a cool chart tracking these changes compared to Romney’s two-party share of the vote.


Unsurprisingly, the chart shows red states stayed red, blue states stayed blue and to a degree purple states stayed purple. But, that masks some pretty significant shifts. For example, Trump ran 6 percent better in Ohio, 4 percent in Wisconsin, 3 percent better in Pennsylvania, 5 percent better in Michigan, 3 percent better in Florida, a whopping 8 percent better in Iowa and 6.5 percent better in Maine. For her part, Clinton made some deeply blue states a darker shade and actually came closer in Texas and Utah than Obama. But, this is the rub, she only did it in Coastal states like WA, OR and CA. Trump actually ran better in NY State, Rhode Island and Hawaii and Delaware than Romney did (for a full list of states Trump did better in than Romney see below).


However, unlike Trump, Clinton failed to flip any of these states into her column. Trump, due to his narrow advantages in the Midwest, flipped the states he needed to win a commanding Electoral College majority.
But, Trump flipped states in a way that was vastly different than Bush and prior Republican nominees had. The recipes for success in Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, to pick just a few examples, were different than Trump’s. For example, in Iowa victory was gained by running up huge margins in Eastern Iowa to offset losses in Western Iowa. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were won by winning in the suburbs and winning or tying in rural areas. In Trump’s case, he won virtually everywhere in Iowa, lost the Philly suburbs substantially but offset those losses by winning big in rural areas and showcased his strength in Wisconsin’s rural areas even as turnout in red, suburban Milwaukee dropped.

For their part, Clinton and Democrats ran up big margins in the Colorado and Virginia suburbs. However, in transitioning Sun Belt states like North Carolina and perennial swing state Florida, the Clinton campaign did not do much better than Obama in the suburbs. They did notably worse in urban areas.


But here is the rub, the Democrats coalition in swing states did not outweigh the new GOP coalition in the Rust Belt. Just look at the math. Democrats won Colorado, Nevada and Virginia (states Bush took in 04) and it gave them 28 Electoral votes. But. Trump won IA, PA, WI, OH and MI and ME’s 2nd CD for a total of 71 votes (states Obama won in 08 and 012). Not a good trade-off.
For once, Republicans get the better end of the Electoral College. But, this view also obscures the fact the GOP got the better of the Electoral College in 2012 when several solid red states gained new votes due to the Census (most notably TX with 4 and AZ with 2).

Republicans certainly don’t have a lock on the map though. Just look at how narrowly Trump won Michigan (11,000 votes), Wisconsin (12,000 votes) and Pennsylvania (35,000) votes. Flip those states and Clinton or another Democrat in 2010 gets 52 Electoral votes and keeps Trump well below 270. Combine this with growing Democratic advantages in CO, NV and VA and they could afford to lose Ohio and Florida and still win.
To prove the point see the chart below.

It’s true short of Virginia most of these states are deeply red or blue. Running up big margins in California won’t change the Electoral College. Nor will coming closer in Texas or Utah. Sure, you could argue Arizona and Georgia are swing seats but for the most part the fundamentals and key county voter preferences showed Trump was likely to win them.
This does leave Democrats somewhat up a creek without a paddle. Whereas Republicans have finally broken through in the Rust Belt (even if their wins are fragile) Democrats have now invested 3 elections worth of effort to flip Texas, Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina. Right now they are batting 1-12. Moreover, the margins in Ohio and Iowa look more Texasesque this election than that befitting perennial swing states.

I recently wrote that this election was a realignment election not based on geography but culture. Right now, Republicans are benefiting from this shift because blue-collar, rural voters are trending their way and suburban voters at worse are splitting their votes in the Rust Belt. On the other hand Democrats have firmly aligned themselves with the culture of minorities, the young, refugees and college educated, urban women and men. So far though, or this election at least, that alliance did not reap many dividends.

That said, here is 1 last important point to keep in mind. After 2012, Republicans said they needed to moderate, pass immigration reform and work with Democrats to win young and urban voters. Instead, Trump won running against immigration reform, the establishment and the cultural tolerance of urban voters. There is no reason to believe that Democrats 4 or 8 years down the road cannot run on a platform similar to Clinton and win. Candidates matter, and let’s be honest, Clinton was a horrible one compared to Obama.

Do Democrats Do Worse When the Gender Gap is Bigger?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08:  A group of women react as voting results come in at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 08: A group of women react as voting results come in at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Exit polls show that the 2016 election is on course to showcase one of the widest gender gaps in American political history. Whereas Donald Trump won men by 12 percent Hillary Clinton won women by a similarly large 12 percent. That creates a whopping 24 percent gender gap.
Of course that is at the national level. In individual Senate and Gubernatorial contests, the margins vary. But we have now seen in the last 4 elections Democrats do incredibly well with female voters. And they have been crushed in 3 of them. So the question must be asked whether Democrats do worse when the gender gap is larger?
Aggregate data in recent elections certainly suggests so. In 2012, Democrats drove up the gender gap to a whopping 19 percent but won a mere 2 Senate seats, a dozen house seats and of course the Presidency. This gender gap could arguably be attributed to the stupidity of individual GOP candidates as anything else though.
The 2014 election was a different story. Democratic candidates across the country tried to paint Republicans as extremists on the issue of abortion. It didn’t work. Indeed, one could easily argue it backfired miserably.
Take the case of Colorado’s 2014 Senate contest. Mark Udall coasted to election in 2008 on the coattails of Obama’s election. That year he won 60 percent of the female vote and 54 percent overall. In 2010, his Senate colleague Michael Bennett won election against a Tea Party challenger on the back of a 17 percent margin among women. So, it seemed to make sense for Udall to target female voters.
But, the way Udall did it made no sense. He seemed solely devoted to driving up his margins among women at the expense of everybody else. The best example of this would be an ad his campaign released arguing Corey Gardner (his GOP opponent) would ban condoms. This sole devotion to the female vote seemed to work. He won 54 percent of women. But he lost over 60 percent of men and the election.
In another contest, the Iowa Senate race, Congressman Bruce Braley attacked Republican state senator Joni Ernst on her support for banning partial birth abortion. He ran ads attacking her over it. The attacks barely made a dent as she won by 7 percent and almost carried the female vote.
Nationally, exit polls from 2014 showed Democrats won the female vote for the House with 52 percent. But the margin Republicans won among men, 58 percent, easily outweighed Democratic margins among women.
These recent examples showcase the danger Democrats face in focusing largely on winning the female vote. It can backfire. Men are not nearly as receptive as women to abortion related ads and debates. Further, focusing on these social issues can take candidates attentions away from issues ALL voters care about (the economy, jobs, healthcare, etc.).
Additionally, it oversimplifies the female electorate’s voting preferences. Gender may be somewhat indicative of a partisan leaning but it is not nearly as predictive as geography, race and age.

Democrats consistently win 18-29 year old women, single women and black, Latino and Asian women. For that matter they also win black, Latino and Asian men.  Democrats real issue with men (and some women) is that they tend to be more blue-collar than women and more ideologically conservative. Moreover, the majority of men that vote are white men and Democrats have done horribly with this group.
Reflecting this struggle are similar Democratic problems among, married, white women. Take the case of this election. Donald Trump was viewed by most pundits and analysts as repugnant to all women. He was supposed to be the first GOP nominee in the modern era to lose white women. Instead, Trump won a majority of white women and actually won 45 percent of white women with college degrees.
These women in some respects reflect the partisan tendencies of their white, male counterparts. They want economic security, lower taxes and their children to be safe. The wedge issues of abortion, gay marriage and sexual rights have less salience to these women.
One should not expect the wedge issues that Democrats have hammered home for the last decade to go away. The party is simply too invested in them. But, after this and recent elections, Democrats need to realize that not all women are the same and driving up the gender gap does not automatically equal electoral success. Just as Mark Udall and more recently, Hillary Clinton.

Democrats Angry at Clinton for Lack of Economic Message Should Look in the Mirror

The exit polls from last Tuesday paint a grim picture for Democrats who are reeling from an electoral shellacking.  On the surface it looks like Hillary Clinton won voters on the economy.  Fully 39 percent of voters rated the economy as their most important issue and Clinton won them by 10 percent.  But when it came to who voters trusted most to handle the economy Trump won by a narrow 3 percent.  Additionally, among the voters who ranked the economy as poor Trump won almost 6-10 voters.
Democrats have rightly taken the Clinton campaign to task for its lack of a compelling economic message.  A 100 policy positions and 50 bills proposed in the first 100 days does not a theme make.  While the Clinton campaign does deserve a lot of blame for focusing on identity politics, intense scrutiny of Trump’s supporters and allegations of sexual assault, the party and its leaders also deserve quite a bit of blame.
As Democratic pollster Celinda Lake put it, “If Democrats don’t have something to offer on the economy we’re not going to win elections.”  Well, no duh.  But somehow the message voters sent you in 2010 and 2014 on that front did not penetrate the party’s group-think.
Democrats have spent thousands of hours in hundreds of campaigns over the last several years stressing issues from global warming to abortion and gay marriage.  Yes, they have talked about the economy but the way they have gone about it has cost them dozens of Congressional and hundreds of legislative seats.   You cannot argue for an economy that benefits everybody, embrace trade and shrug off the communities that feel left behind because of it.  Rational or not, these are real concerns voters have and Democrats have not addressed them in the past decade.
Part of the problem stems from the deep divide the party has on the economy.  Unsurprisingly, almost every member agrees inequality is bad.  But, many coastal Democrats (an increasingly large faction of the party) see trades as a boon to the economy (and their reelection prospects).  The remaining lawmakers in the Rust Belt do not.
The other part of the issue is that Democrats have increasingly catered to their up-scale, down-scale coalition at the expense of their older, former base.  You can see this by the language they use to talk about the economy such as “fair jobs” vs. “more jobs.”  Increasingly the party has increased its base in states they already dominate and have started to lose almost everywhere else.
It’s little secret Trump ran ahead of Romney among blue-collar, non-college educated whites.  But, it is where these gains were made that is crucial.  Trump made them in the Rust Belt whereas prior GOP nominees did it most in the already red South.  Preliminary analysis shows 10 states broke for Trump by 5 points more than they did Romney.  A whopping 8 of them were in the Midwest and included Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana.
The Clinton campaign’s talking point that the Comey revelation stole their momentum in the final weeks has been getting lamer of late.  According to exit polls, late deciders broke for Trump by 5 percent nationally.  But in the states that mattered it was a different story.  In Michigan late deciders favored Trump by 11.  In Pennsylvania, Trump carried them by 17.  In Wisconsin, Trump won the 14 percent of late deciders by a massive 2-1 margin.  The majority of these voters did it because of the economy.
For the most part Democratic candidates parroted Clinton’s campaign themes on identity politics and a fair economy.  When surveys were showing voters concerned about the economy in their states and Gallup finding 6-10 parents felt their children would be worse off Democrats stayed the course of making the election solely about cultural, wedge issues.
Democrats can comfort themselves that they have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 elections.  But, this covers up the fact they have only won 4 of the last 7 elections.  More importantly, they have only won a majority of the popular vote 2 out of 7 times.  Hardly something to celebrate.

Democrats Are Losing the Senate: Will Big House Gains Follow

comstock06-gwt-05042015-rjs-710ximg_4462Recent polls have shown Democrats are losing the Senate.  Sure-fire seats such as Wisconsin have suddenly become competitive, Ohio and Florida continue to tilt red and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Joe Heck in Nevada have established slim edges.  Missouri continues to be neck and neck but Democrats are now losing Indiana and North Carolina continues to be just out of reach.  The only state Democrats seem to have gained in is Pennsylvania (though the most recent poll found a tied contest).
Trump’s recent gains in the polls can largely be attributed to GOP resurgence down-ballot as well as a renewed GOP focus from endangered incumbents focusing on being a check on Clinton.  Democrats had largely hoped to take the Senate this cycle but they were also gunning heavily for the House.
Democrats regaining 30 seats and capturing the House was always a stretch but retaking some Democratic leaning and swing districts was always a possibility.  With Trump on the ticket Democratic hopes have risen and fallen.  Every time Clinton has commanded a substantial lead they have seen favorable internal polling (like early to mid-October).
But as the race has hit the home-stretch Democrats may be starting to realize they may not only lose the Senate but gain at most a dozen House seats.  There are multiple reasons for this and only a few are Democrats faults.
One is recruiting.  Early on Democrats failed to recruit strong challengers in suburban/rural districts in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  While Democrats believe some of their weaker, late recruits are showing strength at the end the odds are good Democrats will leave these seats on the table beyond 2016.
The biggest Democratic fault was having Clinton be their standardbearer.  It is true you could say the same of Republicans and Trump but whereas Republicans have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from Trump, many Democrats have embraced Clinton.  As a result, endangered Republicans can run as a check on Clinton.
As I mentioned before, not all the reasons for Democratic struggles are theirs.  The strength of many GOP incumbents, outside spending and demographics have hindered their efforts.
GOP incumbent strength has allowed many top-tier seats at the start of the cycle (FL-26, IA-1, IA-3, PA-8, VA-10 etc.) to remain barn-burners.  Democrats should be dominating these kinds of districts in liberal Eastern Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania, Democratic heavy Southern Florida and the Virginia suburbs.  Instead, at best their candidates are tied with GOP incumbents even with favorable turnout projections built into their internal polls.
Republicans have benefited strongly from outside spending.  While many conservative outlets and donors have not donated to Trump they have spent millions supporting Congressional GOP candidates.  It has helped many Republicans have built up their war chests in anticipation of tough reelections.  Additionally, the money Paul Ryan has raised for his party numbers in the millions.  If anything, Ryan is Boehner on steroids for raising money to protect his majority.
Lastly, demographics have actually hindered more than helped Democrats in their quest for seats in the House.  Sure, they can play in heavily Hispanic districts in CA and FL and suburban districts in MN, PA and VA.  But the Obama leaning, rural and white districts in IA, MN, OH and elsewhere that should be theirs on paper have not followed through.
A couple cases in point.  Democrats should be dominating in IA-1.  The district gave Obama 56 percent pf the vote in 2012.  Rod Blum, is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and has consistently opposed Obama.  He has endorsed Trump.  Blum should be a goner.  But instead, fueled by Trump’s strength in the district he has held his own against his Democratic challenger.
How about NV-4.  The district voted for Obama by 10 points in 2012 and is almost a majority-minority Hispanic district.  This seat should be blue.  But, instead, Democrats despite finding a top recruit have struggled to put it away as polls show Hispanics and blacks unlikely to vote and Republicans core voters, blue-collar whites, geared up to do so.
Democrats counter that their strength among college educated women, particularly white women, will pay dividends in the future.  They vote at a higher rate than college educated white men, are more Democratic and only growing as a share of the electorate.  That all may be true.  But it is scant comfort for Congressional leaders who will be irrelevant for another 2 years of divided government.

Early Voting Numbers Are Not All They Are Cracked Up To Be

Democrats are ecstatic over news that early voting among their party faithful is well ahead of 2012 numbers.  In fact, short of Florida and Iowa, the party is outpacing Republicans.  This has the party optimistic they can take marginal seats in Colorado and elsewhere.

But 2016 is not 2012.  Romney ran up significant margins in virtually every battleground state in 2012 yet still lost almost every single one of those states.  Additionally, the advent of new campaign technology makes the victories and defeats of former campaigns largely irrelevant.

Sure, you cannot dismiss the fact Democrats are using their organizational advantage to great effect.  But, the vote totals among partisans are really not that great.  Plus, it’s clear that the Trump and Clinton campaigns have taken divergent paths in getting voters to the polls.

Clinton has invested in an extremely data driven and micro targeting focused campaign.  This makes sense considering she is targeting low turnout voters and her campaign is uninspiring.  Trump, on the other hand, has eschewed data and campaign infrastructure (leaving it to the RNC) and focused on leveraging his celebrity and rhetoric to bring supporters to the polls.  In the primaries he used free media to significant effect and he has tried to do the same of late.

Historically, the conventional wisdom has followed a linear line of logic; Republicans win mail-in ballots, Democrats in-person early voting and Republicans win Election Day, in-person voting.  The elections are determined by the margins.

But this logic has always been far too simplistic.  Just because one identifies as a Republican or Democrat does not mean they will VOTE that way.  For example, many solid Republicans in Northern Florida still identify in voter rolls as Democrats.  Many moderate Republicans in New England vote solidly Democrat now.

Certainly, campaign software and technology has tried to keep apace of these changes.  They’d be foolish if they did not.  But, even the most sophisticated software cannot always be right.

In our hyper-partisan campaign cycles where party stalwarts have always lined up on two sides and Independents have preferred their personal leanings the theme for the parties has been to get their partisans out in force.  For the most part it probably has benefited the parties.

But this is not 2004, 2008 or even 2012.  This is 2016, an election year where evidence abounds registered Democrats are defecting to Trump and many white-collar, up-scale, white Republicans are defecting for Clinton.  Again, evidence abounds these voters might split their tickets down-ballot as well.  In New Hampshire and Pennsylvania Clinton has established solid leads.  Yet, in some polls both GOP Senate incumbents are pulling 15-20 percent support among Democrats. A vote for Clinton does not automatically equate to a vote for other down-ballot Democrats.

Add all this up and you find the numbers could mean many things.  But, it also is an indication that early voting numbers are not the end all be all.  Democrats would be wise to remember this.

2016: The Election of Split-Ticket Voting

figure8-2012_ticket_splittingStop me if you have heard this before, “Since the October 5th lewd comment video where Donald Trump admits to groping women GOP fortunes have turned south.”  I could go on but like I said I am sure you have heard it before. But perhaps what is most notable is that while Democrats have more targets at every level, the anticipated gains are expected to be minimal.  At least at the state level.  And that is a sign that voters are willing to split their tickets.
Consider the legislative targets Democrats have to pick from.  In the Northeast, Democrats are giddy about picking up the New Hampshire Senate and House, Maine Senate, and breaking up the power-sharing agreement some New York Democrats have with the Senate GOP.  Even in Pennsylvania, Democrats are optimistic of gains in the Philly suburbs. In the Midwest, Democrats are targeting the Wisconsin Senate (a tough slog) and the Minnesota House.  In the West Democrats have their sights set on the Arizona Senate, New Mexico House, Colorado Senate and Washington State Senate.  Democrats are even eyeing regaining their super-majority in the California legislature.
Such a bevy of targets suggests Democrats will indeed find down-ballot success this cycle.  Indeed, not since the 60’s has a party that won the White House not gained legislative seats.  This is extremely important when one considers divided government is likely to reign after this election nationally but in the states the GOP is still likely to dominate.
Of course, Republicans do have their targets.  Republicans are spending heavily to take the Iowa Senate as well as the Kentucky House.  But, the GOP’s best targets lie in gubernatorial contests.
Due to a quirk of when states hold their gubernatorial elections Democrats are fighting to hold these executive positions in predominately red states.  Trump is expected to win Montana, West Virginia, and Missouri and all are run by Democrats.  In Vermont, the GOP is hoping a moderate Lt. Governor can overcome Trump running on a platform of ethics reform and social liberalism.
Along with fighting to hold these seats Democrats best chances for a pick-up come in politically divided North Carolina and open seat Indiana.  Both states are rife with divides within the state GOP and polls show narrow leads for the Democratic challengers.  The same can be said for Democrats in Missouri and West Virginia while Montana Governor Steve Bullock is losing steam.
This suggests that a plethora of voters are willing to split their tickets for Governor, legislature, and President.  This is not new though.  Studies have shown voters rate their vote for Governor different than federal contests which tend to be more ideological.
What is more surprising is how willing voters seem to be to split their tickets at the federal level.  It is clear that short of Indiana and Missouri, Senate Republicans in competitive contests are running ahead of Donald Trump.  By how much depends on the poll you read and how you interpret them.  You can see this by comparing the RCP Senate average of polls to the state averages of Presidential polls.
But, anecdotal suggests this is occurring in greater abundance than originally thought.  For example, the Washington Post recently interviewed 30 white men (a good demographic for the party), college educated (less so) in the Philly suburbs (ouch).  Not a single one said they were voting for Trump but well over half said they are voting for GOP Senator Pat Toomey.  This explains why Toomey is running well ahead of Trump in the state.
Part of this is likely due to the unique nature of the Trump candidacy.  But, additionally, it is also due to Republicans doing a good job localizing their races.  Indeed, for all the doom and gloom about Trump dragging down House Republicans a surprising number are flourishing and Democrats are struggling to finish them off (according to their internal polls).
Ultimately, 2016 could go down as an election of split ticket voting at every level.  This phenomenon might help Republicans maintain health majorities in the House, a slim majority in the Senate and do better than expected at the state level.  For Democrats, it will damage their Congressional prospects but allow them to at least retain relevance in many red states.

What the Tightening Polls Tell Us

hero_image_main_2It was inevitable the polls would tighten before November.  What is striking in contrast to 2012 and 2014 is how much variance there is in the polls.  Consider the latest RCP compilation of polls.

In polls conducted since the start of July we have seen Trump leads as high as 7 points (Rasmussen) to Clinton leading by as much as 11 (Reuters).  Most polls have split the difference with Clinton up by 3 or 4 points.  Yet, a CBS/NYT survey found the race tied and most recently a LA Times/YouGov survey found Trump up by a point.

To be sure, the national polls might be tightening but they still show a 2-3 point Clinton lead.  However, it is the state polls where we have seen the biggest movement.  In the swing states of Colorado and Virginia Clinton has vaulted ahead of Trump.  But, in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania (Trump’s trifecta), her lead has shrunk.

Again, taking into account the variance in the surveys most polls are showing it neck and neck in these battlegrounds.  So perhaps we should look at the battleground counties in these crucial states. Enter a polling firm called Axiom Strategies.

I will be the first to admit I have not heard of them (a subsidiary of Remington Research Group which I have) but the data they present runs flat in the face of national polling.

Axiom, on a weekly basis, is polling voters in 7 seven battleground counties in 7 swing states.  They are Hillsborough County, Florida, Jefferson County, Florida, Watauga County. North Carolina, Sandusky County, Ohio, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Loudoun County, Virginia and Washoe County, Nevada.

In every state the winner of these counties has won the state in the last 6 Presidential contests.  Not surprisingly, this means the trending blue counties like Jefferson and Loudoun voted for Obama in 08 and 12 while Watauga went for Romney in 2012.

The latest batch, if it is to be believed, indicates a Trump win.  Trump leads in every county minus Loudoun (highlighting his uphill climb in Virgina).  He narrowly leads in Jefferson (again, not a good sign).  But in the batch of states he must win (Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, North Carolina) and even Nevada, a state he does not need to win, he is leading.  By some surprising margins.

Most surprising of all are Trump’s massive lead in Luzerne and Sandusky counties.  Both are blue-collar counties that have been friendly to Democrats historically.  Wautauga and Washoe counties have historically leaned red but are turning a shade of blue.  Finally, Hillsborough County is a heavily populated county nestled in the suburbs of Tampa.  Trump has a narrow 3 point lead there.

Put simply, Trump is massively outperforming expectations in all these counties relative to 2012 (even the counties he is narrowly leading in or trailing).  It appears the Clinton email scandal is taking its toll on the former Secretary of State.

But as mentioned earlier, these polls fly in the face of what national and many state polls are telling us.  From their 40,000 feet up perspective the race is Clinton’s to lose.  But, from these battleground county surveys, Trump has to mess up to lose.

Reconciling the polls are is not an easy task.  Sampling techniques, weighting, the turnout estimation, all matter.  It is possible the impact of Clinton’s email scandal have yet to be reflected in the polls. But in battleground counties, where staffers and the campaigns are, in turn which means voters are in the know, the damage is being done and felt in a way insulated from larger surveys.

One other possibility does pop up and obviously must be correct by default.  One set of polls are wrong.  Either Trump really is doing well in battleground counties and probably outperforming the polls or these county results are off.  It is hard to think Trump is winning by over 20 points in Luzerne and double-digits in Sandusky but these counties have been hammered by job loss and cultural alienation from the Democratic Party.  It is not inconceivable.


Trump Made A Wise Move By Picking Pence

isLast Friday, Donald Trump announced he was choosing former Congressman and the current Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, as his running mate.  Pence was a smart, pragmatic and safe choice.  A choice that smooths Trump’s rough edges and gives him an in with Congress.

Last week, it was clear Trump had 4 choices; Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Pence.  While Sessions and Christie were close friends with Trump they would have added little to his candidacy.

Trump is attempting to expand his appeal to women and minorities.  You don’t do that by nominating an immigration die-hard like Sessions.  Christie has experience and a temperament similar to Trump but he remains dogged by Bridgegate and is yesterday’s conservative star.

So that left Pence and Gingrich.  It was clear Gingrich wanted the job.  He went out of his way to campaign for Trump and sing the presumptive nominee’s praises.  Pence wanted the job too.  He tepidly endorsed Trump during the Indiana primary and began circulating to his staff and family he would gladly accept the VP slot if asked.

Ultimately, Pence had several things Gingrich could not match.  The first was a strong, steady temperament.  Pence had been a steady hand in Congress for Republicans in the Republican Study Conference.  He also has been a strong Governor for his state.  Unemployment is low and the Indiana’s economy is growing.

Secondly, Pence is far more conservative than Gingrich.  Unlike Gingrich, Pence has never done a commercial to advocate for Climate Change with Pelosi on a park bench.  Additionally, Pence has not proposed to build a base on the moon (kinda expensive).  Most importantly for Trump though, Pence has a history of fighting for less spending and government.  He pushed back against his party during the Bush years on No Child Left Behind and on Medicare Part D.  Trump is seen as liberal to many conservatives so this can only help on that front.

Lastly, Pence is not dogged by a complicated ethical history.  Gingrich is the only former Speaker to be censored by the House.  When you are running against “Crooked Hillary” you don’t pick somebody who has a sorta “crooked” history.  Additionally, Pence actually practices what he preaches on family values.  Gingrich is a thrice divorced man who left a women who had cancer.  Pence, well, his history is much more simplistic and ethical.

Finally, Pence has strong relations with Congress.  He served with Ryan and over 70 other current Republicans in the House.  He has ties to the RSC and knows how to build bridges on Capitol Hill.  That is probably his biggest selling point in DC.

Still, he has downsides.  Pence’s conservatism got him in hot water last year over LBGT and religious freedom issues.  Additionally, Pence is relatively unknown to a large majority of the nation.  Further, he is not perfectly in sync with Trump ideologically.  Pence supported the Iraq War and pushed for immigration reform in 05 and 06.

Pence did embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion but with a conservative twist.  He successfully turned the expansion into a conservative reform by making enrollees pay premiums and these same enrollees if they are above the poverty line could be locked out of coverage if they don’t pay premiums.  The state charges up to $25 in co-pays for individuals who visit the doctor inappropriately and the program is exempt from retroactively covering enrollees medical costs up to three months before they applied for coverage.  Additionally, coverage is provided through private insurers and not CMS.

For all these faults and benefits however Sean Trende at RCP made a good point.  Right now, the tightening in polls, at least nationally, is due to Clinton dropping and Trump staying steady.  Voters are not yet sold on Trump as he is attacked non-stop on the airwaves by Clinton for his volatility.  Picking Pence, a steady hand, won’t solve this problem but it can start to help.

Trump’s campaign has been beset by issue after issue.  The way the VP selection was handled is not at all reassuring.  That said, Pence was a smart, solid, and safe choice for Trump to make as VP.  At the Convention and beyond he now has to build on that selection.

The Democratic Party Just Proved How Left They Are

Democratic-National-ConventionThe “moderate” Democratic Party died last week.  The Platform Committee of the Democratic National Committee ratified the most liberal draft policy platform in the history of the party and it looks likely the party will move even further left in the coming years.

This can be summed up due to 3 random factors converging.  The first represents Sanders transformation of the Democratic Party.  Sanders campaign successfully integrated many liberal activist groups and voters over the course of the campaign.  For example, in NY State he courted anti-fracking activists and in Washington State garnered the endorsement of environmental groups.

As the Sanders campaign probably started to sense it could not win the election it began to foment more of a revolution through the party platform.  Sanders and his allies used their leverage (millions of voters strong) to push for a more progressive and ideological agenda.

Secondly, the timing worked out.  In 2009, the Democratic coalition was an unwieldy alliance of progressive and conservative legislators.  But fast-forward to the results of the 2010 and 2014 midterms and many of those conservative to moderate members of Congress and legislators are gone.  There is now less resistance in the party to a more progressive platform.

Lastly, Clinton and Sanders are far more ideologically in sync than many individuals honestly think.  So are their supporters.  Clinton backers might be more upscale and politically savvy but they largely want to achieve the same goals as Sanders supporters.

Of course, there were disagreements within the party.  Labor unions strongly opposed the TPP but not necessarily anti-fracking amendments.  Likewise, environmentalists only opposed TPP because of a lack of environmental safeguards but were fervently opposed to fracking.  As a result, many “unity amendments” that tried to unify various positions were proposed and failed.

Even so, the party platform is the most liberal in history.  The party called for tuition free college (which Clinton backed last week) and extremely strong anti-trust laws, strong support for wind and solar power at the expense of much cheaper and more useful natural gas and a trillion dollar infrastructure plan.

But, by far, the biggest shift was the party’s open adoption of support for a “Public Option”” in “Medicare for all.”  Notably, the platform makes no mention of how to pay for such a massive entitlement (just like free college) but its adoption is a sign that the Democratic Party is becoming more of a European style center-left welfare party.

The party used to defend gun rights (even as it banned assault weapons).  No reference to gun rights is to be found on the draft platform.  On a host of racial and social issues the platform moves left.

The platform calls for the abolition of the death penalty at all levels.  No language is found on how government can work with faith-based institutions to better people’s lives (this was in the 2012 platform).  However, the document does call for overturning decades of Supreme Court decisions regarding campaign finance.

Race is placed front and center in the platform.  The document pledges the Democratic Party to promote racial justice as well as environmental and climate justice.  In addition, the document reads like a manifesto with its call for criminal-justice reform and push for societal transformation to make it clear “black lives matter and there is no place for racism in this country.”

Bernie Sander’s helped pushed the party to the left and it is possible that at the Convention the party could move even further.  But, for right now, it stands ready to adopt the most liberal platform in America’s history.