POS Puts to Rest the Myth Most Voters Did Not Vote

AP_voting_jef_141104_16x9_992Public Opinion Strategies, a GOP pollster, has finally put to rest the myth that a majority of US voters did NOT vote this election as President Obama insisted when he said, “To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.”

If true, this would surely indicate our system has serious issues.  The real problem? It is not true.  Rather, it is more accurate to say a majority of the Voting Eligible Population did not vote.  Registered voters are something completely different.

To be in the VEP all you have to do is be 18 and an American citizen (minus a disqualifier like being a felon).  But to be a registered voter you actually have to be registered to vote.  Thus, as Shull and McInturff indicate, what we actually should have are two different turnout rates, one for VEP and registered voters.

Thanks to information provided by the US Elections Project this is fairly easy to calculate (as seen below).  Note these numbers are subject to some revision as final ballot counts are certified by various election offices in December.

Estimated Number of Votes Cast: 82.3 million
Estimated Number of Registered Voters: 153.2 million*
Estimated VEP: 227.2 million

Turnout Among RVs: 82.3 million ÷ 153.2 million = 53.8%
Turnout Among the VEP: 82.3 million ÷ 227.2 million = 36.2%

President Obama is wrong. A majority of registered voters did vote this cycle.  A majority of VEP individuals did not.

It is accurate to say that turnout was down this cycle from the 2010 midterm.  However, the drop from 89.2 million to 82.3 million registered voters is largely attributable to five states.  As Shull and McInturff write, “five states that account for just more than a quarter of the U.S. population. Compared to 2010, turnout was down by approximately 2.6 million in California, 800,000 in New York, 700,000 in Ohio, 500,000 in Missouri, and 500,000 in Pennsylvania. In addition to being relatively large, what these states had in common was no Senate election and either no Governor’s race or a non-competitive one.”

Further, as POS notes, due to random chance only 52% of the population lived in states with Senate elections.  Let’s also keep in mind most Senate elections were not that competitive this cycle.  Thus, when you combine the fact that almost half of the population lived in states devoid of a Senate election and many races were uncompetitive hitting a 53% RV turnout rate is not bad historically (nor is 36% of the VEP).

It is also worth mentioning, building on Schull’s and McInturff’s analysis that some of the states with the most competitive gubernatorial and Senatorial elections saw the highest turnout.  Consider the examples below.

Maine: While Maine did not have a competitive Senate race it saw a competitive three-way gubernatorial race.  Turnout among RV’s was the highest in the nation at 59.3%.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin saw an extremely competitive gubernatorial race and it showed.  Lacking a Senate race the state still saw a RV turnout rate of 56.9%, the second highest in the nation.

Alaska: Alaska featured competitive Senatorial and gubernatorial elections.  This led the state to have an RV turnout rate of 53.8%, third highest in the nation.  This is doubly impressive when one considers the geography of the state (though the Begich campaign’s operation might have aided in turnout).

Colorado: Colorado had it all; competitive Senatorial and gubernatorial elections and an all new mail voting system.  The result was a turnout rate among RVs of 53.4%, edging out Oregon’s 52% rate.

Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire: All three of these states featured mildly competitive to extremely competitive Senatorial or gubernatorial elections.  All three also had both.  Turnout rates among RVs for all three states clustered right under or above 50%.

It is also notable that three of the four biggest states in the country, NY, TX, and CA had extremely low turnout rates.  CA saw a turnout of 30.3%, TX a mere 28.5% and NY 28.8%.  Florida which had a few competitive Congressional races and a Gubernatorial contest did better with 42.7%.

All in all, considering the various factors involved in this election turnout was not that bad.  So, perhaps the President and his party should stop blaming the election results largely on turnout.


Addendum: Even Charles Schumer acknowledges Democrats paid a heavy price for the issues they ran on this cycle, especially Obamacare.

Addendum 2: It would be nice if writers and the media would stop saying it is Republicans who benefit from low turnout.  Obviously, the fact the GOP won in states with the highest turnout indicates differently.







Why the Jones/Ybarra Contest Means Little to Idaho Education

Sherri Ybarra and Governor Otter.
Sherri Ybarra and Governor Otter.

If you are a Democrat from Ada County (or heck, anywhere in Idaho) you are probably freaking out that a Republican got elected for Superintendent who is unqualified, lied about her academic career and plagiarized a section of her campaign website.  I speak of course about Sherri Ybarra.

Democrat Jana Jones came close to defeating Ybarra.  She did much better than any other Democratic statewide candidate that night.  But the truth of the matter is if Jones had won it would have made little difference.  Despite the Superintendent’s ability to direct educational policy he/she does not control the purse strings.  The legislature does and thus they hold the majority of power in setting Idaho’s educational agenda.  More specifically, the GOP legislative super-majority does.

It is important to remember (and hard to forget) that Idaho is a strong one party state.  Republicans occupy every statewide office, state or federal, and control exactly 4/5ths of the state house (56/14) and senate (28/7).  This means that while the political concerns for educational policy will be similar to other states (reelection, results) the ideological direction of such policy will be one sided.  In Idaho this has meant increased focus on test scores and teacher accountability.

The legislature guards its power to direct educational policy through the budget voraciously.  Considering over 60% of Idaho’s budget goes towards education this makes the legislature a huge player in the process.  Whether it is JFAC, the House/Senate educational committees or the entire legislature, they set the policy direction of education by what they fund/don’t fund.

I personally witnessed this when I worked for the legislature in 2013.  The Senate Education Committee staged a revolt over fellow Republican Tom Luna’s attempt to fund pilot technology programs.  While the budget passed the committee it failed to pass the whole Senate.  Ultimately, Luna backed down, the Education Committee inserted statutory language into the bill and it passed overwhelmingly soon after.

Despite the legislature’s power yhr Superintendent has broad flexibility in usage of the educational budget.  But, for the most part, the legislature designs the budget to constrain the Superintendent.  That is largely what the debate over the Education Budget was about in 2013.

There are other players involved in the process as well.  Most notably the State Board of Education.  The State Board approves administrative changes made by the Superintendent (who is a member of the Board) and the Educational Department.  If the legislature does not disapprove the rule it goes into effect.

Combine the power of the legislature and the SBOE and you see how the Superintendent’s authority is greatly limited.  Consider the recent example of Tiered Licensure that recently passed the State Board and is likely to be allowed to go into full effect by the legislature next session.

The proposal was in the works well before Jones or Ybarra even faced off in the general election and was passed by the SBOE before the new Superintendent entered office.  It is conceivable that had she been elected Jones could have fought the law but she would have likely lost the battle.  Ybarra, for her part, seems content with managing the new requirements.

There are other factors I will mention only in passing because unlike the above they are not institutional.  The partisan tilt of the legislature does not just ensure a specific policy direction but also conflict between a Democratic Superintendent and a GOP legislature.  Jones made no bones about it that she would fight the legislature during the campaign.  Specifically, she spoke glowingly of the IEA and negatively of Tiered Licensure.

Further, she would have likely sparred with a conservative State Board of Education and been at odds with the Governor.  Likely budgets would not match, compromise would be hard to find and the next four years would be marked by dysfunction at the administrative/political level.

Idaho has endured this before when Superintend Marilyn Howard ran the show.  She constantly fought with Governor Kempthorne and the legislature and she ardently opposed the one cent sales tax hike to fund education that passed in 2006.

It is likely those who voted for Jones were voting for a new direction in Idaho education.  The vote margin Jones racked up in Ada County certainly indicates so.  Many Jones voters were worried Ybarra was not qualified or would be led around by an anti-teacher, anti-education legislature and gubernatorial administration.  But, also keep in mind many Jones voters also supported Republicans down ballot ensuring a GOP legislature.  Many also split their tickets for Governor Otter and his team.  Perhaps they would not have if they had considered the institutional and political barriers they were putting in Jones place had she won.

Regardless, it really does not matter who won.  The SBOE and legislature are the ultimate power centers in Idaho education and the Superintendent largely implements their will.

Addendum: No matter what happens Democratic voters are sure to see Ybarra as unqualified and a failure.  That is how deep some of the opposition to her candidacy and soon to be administration runs.


GOP Wave Misses California Again

California GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kaskari
California GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kaskari

If one state has withstood the national GOP environment for the last two midterms it is California.  Consider Republicans gained Congressional seats in WA State and CO in 2010, nearly won the Governorship in Oregon (split the legislature) and retook strong GOP seats in AZ and ID.  They cruised to gubernatorial victories in NM and NV.  Yet, in California, the GOP did not win a single race against an incumbent Democrat at any level.

Admittedly, this cycle there was little low hanging fruit for the GOP to win in the West.  Arguably, the GOP lost two winnable races in Arizona but might win AZ-2 after a state mandated recount.  There really were no competitive Congressional races in OR, WA State and New Mexico.  The GOP did win a surprising victory in a Democratic leaning Congressional district in Nevada though and the ultimate prize was winning Colorado’s marquee Senate race.

Easily, the GOP’s best success came at the legislative level.  Beyond holding all their Governorships the party took control of the WA State Senate, the Nevada House and Senate, Colorado Senate, New Mexico House and tightened its hold in the Arizona legislature.  Unfortunately, this success was not replicated in California.

In 2010 California featured competitive Senatorial and Gubernatorial races.  This drove turnout in down ballot races and yet the GOP did not capture any additional seats.  This is partly due to the 2001 redistricting plan that was created as a deal to protect incumbents.  In 2012, after redistricting, the GOP lost three seats and was reduced to a 15 member Congressional delegation (out of 55).  Worse, Democrats established a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers and thus could easily pass budgets without GOP support.

It is important to keep in mind what has happened since 2012.  In 2013, the GOP won the contested San Diego mayoral race after the Democratic mayor stepped down in disgrace.  At least three Democratic state senators were indicted or accused of corruption.  Earlier this year, the Democratic legislature saw their new push for Affirmative Action squashed because of Democratic Asian American and GOP opposition.

Despite this, the strong Democratic orientation of the state has remained.  The GOP came into the cycle with moderate ambitions for rebuilding the party in the state.  They targeted CA-7, a district based in the Sacramento suburbs and CA-52, a GOP leaning district in midterms based around San Diego.  The state party simply sought to become relevant in the legislature again and deny Democrats their 2/3rds majority in the legislature.

As of this writing it looks likely the GOP will, yet again, come up short on gaining a single Congressional district in the state.  The GOP lost the CA-52 race when their candidate, Carl Demaio, imploded and CA-7 has swung the Democrats way thanks to late and absentee ballots coming in from metro Sacramento.  The party was competitive in some surprising races, notably CA-16 and majority-minority Hispanic CA-31.  However, CA-31 was a seat the GOP won in a fluke in 2012 so the party likely will come out of this election at an even more severe disadvantage in the Congressional Delegation.

Nobody expected the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Neel Kashkari, to win against Brown.  Indeed, he won a dismal 40% of the vote in the state, no better than Meg Whitman’s showing in 2010.  In fact, not a single GOP candidate for statewide office won.

The GOP’s success story is its success at the legislative level.  At the start of the cycle the GOP was outnumbered in the state senate 27/12 and 54/25 in the house.  After the election the GOP had won two new senate seats and three new house seats making them a relevant minority again (hold at least 1/3rd of both chambers legislative seats).  This means they will at least have say in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

Admittedly, this is not much to build on but the party did show it is willing to moderate by running a gay candidate for Congress and a American-Indian candidate for Governor.  Even in loss the party might find success in the future.

Still, the GOP wave that struck the country this November and in 2010 missed California.  Democrats have not had the same struggles as they have strengthen their hold on the state’s Congressional delegation and kept Republicans out of any statewide office in the age of Obama.

Addendum 1: Both CA-7 and CA-16 were called for Democrats late last night when absentee and provisional ballots gave them insurmountable leads.  Yet again, the GOP failed to make any traction in the state’s Congressional delegation and actually lost a seat, CA-31.

Addendum 2: With the final results in, CA’s Congressional delegation now represents 38 of the House Democratic Caucus’s 188 seats.  Combine this with WA State and OR and the number shoots up to 47.  The rest of the Democratic Caucus comes from the Northeast and a few majority-minority and blue collar Midwest and Southern districts.  Considering the GOP strength comes from the South it only heightens the likelihood the two Caucus’s will find any common ground on important issues.

Where Republicans Blew it in 2014

Carl DeMaio lost one of the GOP's best pick-up opportunities this cycle.
Carl DeMaio lost one of the GOP’s best pick-up opportunities this cycle.

Democrats  are understandably depressed over a week out from election day.  But they do have some reason to cheer.  The GOP blew several winnable races and in the case of Congressmen Lee Terry (NB) and Steve Southerland (FL) lost two solidly Republican Congressional Districts.  Below is a list of five winnable races the GOP blew in order from most likely to least likely to win according to political analysts and the parties. A few notable races have yet to be called including AZ-2.

CA-52:  If one seat was to flip in CA the GOP felt this district based around San Diego fit the bill perfectly.  Congressman Scott Peters was a freshman and the GOP recruited an openly gay and socially moderate candidate, Carl Demaio, to run.  Demaio ran hard on fiscal conservatism and the polls were all over  the map.  Republican affiliated groups spent big to unseat Peters even as the Congressman was endorsed by the Chamber.  The gamechanger came when Demaio was accused by a former staffer of sexual harrassement.  DeMaio seemed to dodge the accusations but two days before the election another staffer alleged the same.  DeMaio won voters who made up their minds early but he lost late deciding absentee voters and election day voters which sealed his fate.

AZ-1: Anne Kirkpatrick came to Congress in 2008, lost in 2010, and beat a weak GOP nominee for the redistricted, Republican leaning seat in 2012.  She never really faced stiff competition from a weak GOP field and her general election challenger, Andy Tobin, never had enough money to threaten her.  Her primary worry was that outside money would ensure her defeat and mobilize GOP turnout.  Still, on paper this is a district the GOP should have won in an anti-Democratic election.  Instead, the party will be targeting it for a third cycle in a row in 2016.

MN-8: This cycle is Democratic in Presidential years but is swingy in midterms.  The GOP captured the seat in 2010 only to lose it in 2012.  The GOP was believed to have the edge in the district due to Congressman Rick Nolan’s weak campaign and the strength of the GOP’s nominee, Stewart Mills.  But the DCCC spent heavily to aid Nolan and define Mills.  Mills never countered effectively and by the time election day approached he was defined as an out of touch, rich businessman.  Still, Nolan only won by 2% (and under 50%).

Michigan Senate: At the start of the cycle Republicans were optimistic they could play in Michigan.  After-all, despite the state’s electoral history, their nominee, Teri Lynn Land, was breaking fundraising numbers and leading in the polls.  But starting early last year her campaign started to make unforced gaffes and so did she.  Her fundraising started to dry up and outside groups shifted money elsewhere.  Her opponent, Gary Peters, did not make such errors and notably campaigned in blue-collar, conservative Northwest Michigan for votes.  While the race was always a tall order  the GOP ncould have arguably made a play for the seat with the right candidate.

Oregon Senate/New Hampshire Senate: Republicans were incredibly optimistic about Oregon after pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby jumped into the race.  A social moderate, her main focus was on Obamacare and tying freshman Jeff Merkley to it.  Sadly, her campaign never caught fire after the primary.  Accused of violating a restraining order, plagiarism and violating codes of conduct she eventually lost by over 18%.  The New Hampshire Senate race was one the GOP did not see as competitive until late in the cycle.  Though Brown never led in the polls he did succeed in nationalizing the race.  His ultimate downfall is that he never truly succeeded in winning rural blue-collar voters and running up his margins in the GOP leaning suburbs of Southeast New Hampshire.

Other races could have made this list.  The Minnesota Senate race, the Connecticut Governor’s race and a few house races were all on the GOP’s radar but they fell short in each.  One particularly painful loss for the GOP was the Colorado Governorship, even as they gained control of the state senate and knocked off US Senator Mark Udall.


Mary Landrieu Is Done

Likely Senator elect Bill Cassidy.
Likely Senator elect Bill Cassidy.

Southern Democrats have long survived due to local roots, a conservative streak and a family connection to the state stretching back at least a generation.  Mary Landrieu checks off all these boxes (or at least she did).  She has local roots to the state’s remaining Democratic establishment, a conservative voting streak (tempered since 2008) and her father, Moon Landrieu, was a white, two-term mayor of New Orleans.  Her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is carrying on the family torch as the current mayor of New Orleans.

Like other Southern Democrats, Landrieu’s brand has been irreparably damaged under the Obama administration.  Her votes in support of the Stimulus and Obamacare stand as tributes to her belief in support for party over state interests.  These votes largely explain why fellow Southern red state Senators Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor lost their bids for reelection in November.

Technically, Landrieu did not lose in November.  She won a plurality of the three-way vote.  Louisiana uses a jungle primary runoff system where all candidates run on the same ballot (regardless of party) and if no single candidate hits 50% the top two vote getters compete again on the first Tuesday in December.  This is where Landrieu finds herself.  Despite winning 42% in the jungle primary her opponents, Congressman Bill Cassidy and Rob Manness combined to get 57% of the overall vote.  Landrieu faces Cassidy in the run-off, a solid candidate who has done little to impassion liberals to fight to save Landrieu.

There are a number of reasons why Landrieu finds her bid for reelection bordering on the impossible.  Below are four reasons that particularly stand out.

1. 18%: This is the share of the white vote Landrieu received in November.  She overwhelmingly carried black voters, about a third of the electorate.  But she cannot afford to lose the other two third’s of the electorate 82%-18%.  In 2008 she won 33% of whites who compromised 65% of the electorate and blacks 96%-2% when they made up 31% of the electorate.  In November, blacks made up 30% of the electorate but whites still a strong 64%.  Landrieu desperately needs to up her standing with whites, winning close to 30% and get the electorate to be 30% black.  But both are questionable.  Whites have largely turned away from the party and blacks tend not to turn out in midterms.

2. Geography: Landrieu’s political problem is also geographical.  Historically, Landrieu has won traditionally majority-white conservative Democratic counties.  This historical performance actually matches up pretty closely with the way the Senate map shaped up after the three-way race.  But take Maness out of the equation and Landrieu wins only a narrow strip of majority black counties bordering Mississippi and Orleans Parish.  The margins by which she loses the Parrishes surrounding Orleans eliminate any advantage she gets and her loss margins in the rural areas of the state account for her weak showing of 42% on Nov. 4th.

3. Landrieu Name: Before the Age of Obama the Landrieu name was dominant in Louisiana.  But since Obama the name has become synonymous with the National Democratic Party and the liberal agenda. Landrieu’s politically independent reputation is all but gone and many conservative groups see her defeat as yet another repudiation of the Obama agenda.  Ironically, Landrieu is politically independent enough from the national Democratic brand that liberal outside groups have vowed not to spend to help her in December.

4. Seniority: Only one Republican has gotten reelected in the last six years campaigning on bringing home the bacon (Thad Cochran).  No Democrat has been able to succeed at it this cycle.  But Landrieu has tried.  In the run-up to November she campaigned hard on her seniority and warned the state would lose out if she was unseated. She promised to protect the state’s natural gas and oil industry as epitomized by Keystone.  But with Republicans guaranteed to take the Senate regardless of the December results her claim is meaningless.  Now she is on the attack, unlikely to change the general direction of the race.

At last count conservative outside groups and Republican affiliated PAC’s have vowed to spend over $7 million on the race.  Democrats and their outside groups a meager $500,000.  This 13-1 spending disparity is partly explaining why some report that for every ad Landrieu has run, 96 counter ads hit the airwaves.  Republicans plan to invest almost $2 million beyond ads in direct mail and voter mobilization to make sure Maness voters do not stay home.

Perhaps the only thing Cassidy’s camp has to worry about is overconfidence.  His campaign has him polling at about 57% and Landrieu barely above 40%.  But those polls are also capturing Maness voters coming home and voting for Cassidy.  Not all will. Cassidy has not been content to run out the clock.  His campaign has hit hard the idea of unity.  Cassidy has campaigned with Maness and held a unity rally with his former primary opponent.  National figures from various wings of the party have come to the state to campaign for Cassidy.  All the pieces for a Cassidy victory seem to be in place.

Perhaps the final nail in Landrieu’s coffin is one many thought was Cassidy’s greatest weakness-his no-nonsense policy wonkishness.  In a state that has numerous colorful figures, past and present, including disgraced former Democratic Governor Duke Edwards who is running to reclaim his old House seat, the just defeated kissing Congressman and Senator David Vitter, Cassidy stands out for his lack of a distinguishing trait.

Landrieu has had the benefit of running against past opponents that have hurt themselves by saying inappropriate things.  The closest Cassidy has come to this is saying Harry Reid ran the Senate like a “plantation.”  He quickly apologized.  Other than this Cassidy has given the media and the Landreiu campaign ammo to throw at him.

Landrieu’s last gasp efforts have probably already come and gone.  Days before the November election she said she is in electoral trouble because it is tough to be a “woman” in the South.  Nevermind she has been elected three times (her run-off opponent in 2002 was a woman).  Worse, and far more damaging politically, she attacked Cassidy for not being around in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Cassidy responded via tweet he was setting up an emergency center to treat the storm’s victims.

A recent survey from Magellan adds insult to injury for Landrieu.  The poll finds Cassidy ahead 57%-41%, Obama’s approval at 32% and despite Democrats representing 51% of the electorate 62% think the GOP better represents their views.  As the survey says this is because many white Democrats have turned to the GOP to represent their social and economic interests.  Landrieu has a dismal 58% unfavorable rating.

Stick a fork in it.  This race is over.  Mary Landrieu has been a political survivor before.  But not this time.  Landrieu is done!



Republicans Began to Fix Their Electability Problem in 2014

According to exit polls the GOP won the highest percentage of the Asian vote since 1988.
According to exit polls the GOP won the highest percentage of the Asian vote since 1988.

The reasons offered for Democratic losses last week are numerous; low turnout, voter stupidity, economic concerns, the improved GOP ground game, the list goes on.  But one facet that I have only seen touched on by a few analysts is the most straightforward.  The GOP did better with the groups it neede too. Particularly women and minorities.

Most Democrats have settled on the rather simplistic and partisan answer that low turnout fueled by voter ID laws resulted in low turnout.  Now, while it is true national turnout was lower than any election since 1942, turnout in crucial Senate and Governor’s races exceeded 2010. Democrats didn’t exactly present new ideas either.

Let’s look at one example, the Colorado Senate race.  The state has tabulated almost 2.1 million votes so far, over 300,000 more votes than 2010 and approaching the 2.57 million votes cast in 2012.  Want another example?  Take the Maryland Governor’s race.  Democratic Lt. Governor Anthony Brown lost to Republican Larry Hogan by over 5%, or slightly less than 77,000 votes.  According to the Washington Post, “In Maryland, Brown simply got beaten. This wasn’t turnout; we don’t need any complex divinations to determine what happened. Maryland voters preferred Republican Larry Hogan, and voted him into office….If you increased turnout three percent only in counties that Brown won, he’d still lose by almost 67,000 votes. If you increased turnout by three percent only for Brown in counties that he won, he loses by almost 62,000 votes. If you increase turnout by three percent only for Brown and in every county … he still loses by over 52,000 votes.”

Exit polls and county level voting data also point to GOP success.  In Georgia’s Governor race, Nathan Deal received 47% of the Hispanic vote.  In Texas, Abbott received 44%.  Nationally, the congressional exit poll says the GOP came within a point of winning the Asian vote.  Still, there are dissenters on the validity of the exit polls in terms of how the polling is conducted among Hispanics and Asians (predominately language and geographic bias).

This is where county level data comes in.  In Texas, Greg Abbott ran stronger in the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande valley than Rick Perry did in 2010.  He did not win any new counties but his vote totals were better.  Likewise, Abbott won Harris and Bexar counties while Perry lost both.  Colorado’s Senate results are also instructive.  Republican Corey Gardner ran stronger than Mitt Romney and 2010 Senate nominee Ken Buck in traditionally heavy Hispanic counties.

The GOP did not just improve its performance among minorities however.  It did much better among younger voters.  The national exit poll shows only a minor difference in the voting habits of the young from 2010 to 2014.  However, Democrats did not get near the 60% vote among 18-29 year olds they received in 2012.

In key races, the GOP performed strongly among the young.  In Colorado, no exit polls are available for 18-29 year old voters but among 30-44 year olds he won 52%-42%.  In Iowa, Joni Ernst only lost the youngest voting cohort 51%-44% and crushed Braley among all other age groups.

Perhaps the least noted GOP struggle with voters has been the income divide.  Democrats continuously carry low-income voters (predominately minorities and the young) while losing the middle class and the wealthy.  Barack Obama crushed Romney among those making less than $50,000 in 2012.  But this cycle the tables turned.  Ernst only lost by 12% among those making less than $30,000 and she won all other income groups.  Udall crushed Gardner among the less than $30,000 crowd but lost by a stunning 9% those in between $30,000 and $50,000 as well as all other income groups.  In other states this dynamic was also apparent.

None of this is to say the GOP has fixed its issues with low-income and minority voters.  Further, some polls showed a more conservative, younger electorate was likely to show up at the polls perhaps tainting the result.  Regardless, the GOP has more to crow about from this election based on demographics than they did in 2010.  More importantly, it gives the GOP an idea how to appeal to a younger and more diverse electorate heading into what is sure to be a barn burning 2016 Presidential election.

Oh. And I almost forgot. Working class voters nationwide really, really didn’t like Democrats.


Ada County Results Should Worry Idaho Republicans

Boise-Real-EstateTuesday was a pretty good night for the Idaho GOP.  They lost a swing seat in Northern Idaho but won every statewide office (with underwhelming candidates).  Several endangered Republican legislators in red and purple territory narrowly won.  But dig through the numbers and the Idaho GOP has reason to be concerned, especially as it pertains to Ada County.  Democrats might be sulking after Tuesday night but they can take hope for the future from Ada County.

Depending on the statewide race chosen, Democrats netted about 65,000 votes or so out of Ada County.  The Republican netted about 55,000 votes.  In the case of the Superintendent race the 22,000+ difference almost sunk Ybarra.  If not for her strength in rural areas Jones would possibly be confronting a hostile legislature.  If one looks at a map of the breakdown of Ada County votes it becomes clear that the power off the North End in deciding who wins Ada County has grown significantly.  This trend has only increased as liberal voters have moved into the formerly swing district 18.  As it stands, West Boise is the last GOP legislative redoubt in the city.

Ada County voting for statewide Democrats is not a new phenomenon.  In 2002, the county swung against then Governor Dirk Kempthorne.  But even as it was doing so the GOP maintained a decent contingent of legislators in the city.  That switched in 2006 when several legislators were thrown out even as then Congressman Otter narrowly carried the County in his first bid for Governor.  In 2010, Otter easily carried the county amid a GOP wave nationwide but the party was largely locked out of legislative races (winning 2 of 12 Democratic seats).

Redistricting and shifting political trends have not been kind to the party since then.  In 2012, Democrats reclaimed the legislative seats they lost in the county.  Further worrying for the GOP the fact that LD’s 16, 17, 18, and 19 were the only four districts in the entire state to vote for Obama (in other words, Boise).

The legislative results out of Ada for the party this year are depressing to say the least.  The party had to fight to hold its seats in 15 and not a single GOP challenger won more than 42% of the vote in 16, 18 or 19 (no GOP candidates even stepped up for district 17 races).

From the last two elections results Boise has  from purple to full blown blue.  It has also significantly shifted the preferences of Ada County as a whole.  This shift gives Democrats a strong base in the state but limits their ability to appeal to the conservative rural/suburbs of Canyon County.  Honestly, if nominating a candidate for Governor who voted for Romney in 12 wouldn’t do it what will?  Heck, more than a third of Balukoff’s statewide  vote total came from Ada County and he won 51.2% of the county’s vote.  But when you get to Canyon county he dropped to a meager 30.5%.  He also struggled in Kootenai up North.

So Republicans are locked out of power in Boise’s legislative seats while Democrats cannot win statewide.  Republicans obviously have the better of this situation but it is unfortunate.  First-off, it has made legislators in the conservative suburbs and rural areas of the state hostile to the interests of urban Democrats and the needs of the state’s largest metropolitan area.  Second, common sense areas of agreement become viewed through the prism of partisanship and ideology instead of pragmatism.  Third, and to put it bluntly, the interests of the city of Boise lose.  Consider higher education.  More funds go to UofI and Idaho State University per student than BSU.  You can look at this through multiple prisms but one of the most obvious is that legislators view the interests of Boise, tied to BSU, as less important than that of rural and suburban areas that need trade schools like CWI more.

Returning to the electoral implications of recent votes, Idaho could have a mini urban vs. suburban/rural voting voting pattern forming.  This polarization has resulted in the heavily Republican voting patterns of suburb/rural areas in Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin while major urban centers go Democratic in a big way.

I could of course be wrong.  After-all, Ada County is still fairly moderate, everything considered.  Going D in 2002 and 2014 while red in 2006 and 2010 suggests the county is not fully controlled by the whims of urban Boise voters.  Education was a major issue and it is clear that Balukoff and his ilk campaigned heavily on it.  It probably appealed heavily to young and educated families in the county.

In  the end Ada County is simply not blue or populous enough yet to swing statewide races.  If it becomes so and the state GOP loses the support of enough rural and suburban voters it could be enough to see Idaho Democrats elected elected to a statewide office.  Just don’t count on it to happen soon.