Puerto Rico’s Vote for Statehood Means Little

On Sunday, almost 500,000 voters cast their ballots in Puerto Rico on their current status with the United States.  Puerto Rico has held multiple referendums on their affiliation with the United States.  During the last referendum in 2012, 54 percent said they wanted a status change.  On a second question on the same ballot, 61 percent said they favored statehood.  But then, like now, many, many registered voters did not participate in the vote leading to calls of illegitimacy of the vote.

But, let’s back up for a second.  Puerto Rico has been mired in a 10 year economic recession with no end in sight.  The cost of food and utilities is over 25 percent and 60 percent higher than the Continental US.  While the government has made fighting drugs a cornerstone of its role the drugs keep on flowing.  Most recently, in an unprecedented move last year Congress took the first-time step of restructuring a territory’s debt with its bondholders.  It has not helped the country’s economy.

Due to its territorial status, residents do not pay federal income taxes.  However, they are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes and pay many local income taxes.  Many of the critics of the referendum have latched onto the idea that paying millions in income taxes will do nothing to improve the state’s unemployment rate of 12 percent.

The internal divide within the country over its current status and economic doldrums culminated in a measly turnout of less than of 25 percent.  The current Governor, Ricardo Rossello, of the New Progressive Party, is staunchly pro-statehood and pushed for the most recent referendum.  Against the wishes of the Justice Department, the Governor went ahead with the referendum.

The opposition party, the Popular Democratic Party, urged a boycott of the vote after their calls for a vote on Puerto Rico being an autonomous entity was ignored.  The Working People’s Party also joined in the boycott which culminated in a pro-statehood vote of almost 98 percent.

Most likely, this vote will matter as much as prior votes.  In other words, not much.  As a result, thousands more Puerto Ricans are likely to migrate over to the “mainland” to find better economic opportunities and a lower cost of living.

In the near-term, the repercussions of the vote will be felt in the US mainly along partisan lines.  Democrats will argue Congress should vote on Puerto Rico becoming a state to honor the will of the voters.  The less than 25 percent of them who bothered to show up and vote.

Republicans, on the other hand, are likely to handle this vote as they have all other prior votes on statehood; ignore it!  The low turnout hardly certifies this is the will of the people of Puerto Rico.  Additionally, few, if any Republicans are eager to grant statehood to a territory likely to elect two new Democratic Senators and a majority Democratic Congressional delegation.

In the end, again, the vote will probably amount to nothing.  The internal schism within the nation on its current status and the partisan bickering here is set to ensure Puerto Rico will maintain its current status in the near future.

The Cultural Chasm Hurts Democrats With Trump Supporters

Focus groups, a dime a dozen are often used as self-fulfilling prophecies, with practitioners cherry picking facts and the data to fit their preconceived notions.  Still, it is useful to pay attention to them from time to time.  One recent study, from Democratic pollster Stanley Greenburg, stands out.

Greenburg, an icon in partisan polling circles, interviewed 35 Independent and Democratic voters from Macomb County, Michigan.  All supported Trump.  All these voters are considered swing voters and all showed consistent loyalty to Trump throughout the focus group even as Greenburg concluded his report by saying Democrats could win over these voters by pivoting leftward on economic issues.

The report should be required reading for Democrats seeking a path out of the political wilderness.  For while the Democrats majority-minority, college educated,white female and upper suburbanite base is frothing at the mouth in anger at Trump, the party’s former backers are not. Yes, Democrats could make small gains with Trump supporters in the Midwest if they become more populist.  But, the cultural disconnect between the party and Trump voters is so wide it is hard to see Democrats making the necessary compromises to win over this disaffected constituency and maintain their hold on their current support.

Now, despite Greenburg’s partisan leanings he does know what he is doing.  He was the original pioneer of the idea of “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980’s when he conducted several studies on the county’s voters.  For while these voters have always had Democratic leanings they have never been solid Democrats.  Consider Obama won Michigan by 10 points in 2012 but he only won the county by four points.  Still, this made Greenburg wonder whether the county’s blue collar roots still mattered.  That was until last year when Trump won the county by a commanding 12 points and commanded a 50,000+ vote advantage that helped him carry the state.

Among some of the study’s most notable findings were 1) Trump’s base is extremely loyal, 2) culture matters, 3) Obamacare is still unpopular and 4) few of these voters are receptive to supporting Democrats.  Let’s take each of these in turn.

1. Trump’s base is loyal: Not a single voter in the survey said they regretted voting for Trump.  This, despite the President languishing with 40 percent approval ratings.  Additionally, these voters liked his “bluntness,” “outspokenness,” and “honesty.”  They further accepted Trump’s version of the news and facts and their reactions to videos of his press conferences and interviews reinforced the point, Greenburg wrote.

In the GOP’s quest to implement its agenda on America this loyalty matters.  For example, the NY Times had a story out Sunday questioning whether the party could hold the blue-collar Midwest and repeal Obamacare.  Except, many of these voters dislike the law (more on this in a second) and they trust the President.  They see the benefits of healthcare as a result of Trump, not the former President, and they believe Trump will look out for their interests.  Even if it means challenging Republican leaders in Congress.

2. It’s the culture, stupid: Greenburg believes the party can make gains with these voters on economics but read between the lines and it is clear even Greenburg believes this has limited pull with these voters.  While these voters align with Democrats on several major issues (including entitlements and healthcare) on cultural issues they are miles apart.  These Trump voters cited concerns about terrorism, immigration and lack of integration, worsening race relations and more.  Such talk dominated the focus group, even among those who once backed Obama.

3. Obamacare’s newfound national popularity did not show in the focus group: Democrats are crowing about Obamacare’s newfound popularity, even among Trump/Obama supporters.  One problem, it did not show in the focus group.  Indeed, many participants in the survey shared horror stories about their health insurance as a consequence of Obamacare, citing personal examples of how the law was a hardship for them.

Citing the group, Greenburg writes, “early every per­son in our group was struggling with how to afford their plans, co-pays, and med­ic­a­tions.”  No concrete alternatives were discussed but they did show they had faith in Trump to fix the healthcare system and look out for their best interests.

4. The biggie, no one expressed receptivity to supporting Democrats: If Democrats want to regain control of Congress they are going to have to make gains in the Midwest and the focus group’s responses highlight the party’s struggle.  Despite agreeing with general liberal policy preferences the group did not show much receptivity to supporting Democratic candidates.

Greenburg notes about two-thirds of the focus group supported a generic, populist Democrat more than a moderate, business friendly candidate who supports globalization.  That’s great and all, but generic candidates do not win elected office.  Actual candidates do.  Greenburg puts a pitch in for progressive icons like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who fit the populist profile.  But, the focus group did not seem enthusiastic about either.  Worse, the group showed little support for any other progressive icon on the horizon (including Joe Biden).

The study was commissioned by a progressive think-tank so it is little wonder Greenburg sprinkles in analysis with optimistic takeaways and pronouncements.  Except, these voters gave no indication they were giving up on Trump anytime soon.

The study should stand as yet another warning for the party.  Despite becoming more diverse and multi-cultural, the party has limited its electoral reach.  By putting the blame of worsening race relations, a stagnant economy, wage inequality, intolerance, bigotry and more squarely on the shoulders of blue-collar whites they have bled their cultural connection to these voters.

Democrats for years have had warnings this was coming.  All the way back in 1992, Bill Clinton recognized his party was out of step with these voters and took on the worse excesses of his party in a bid to redefine what a Democrat was.  He was extremely successful, winning back Macomb County for his party in 1996.  In subsequent elections, his party did not follow suit.  Al Gore won the county narrowly in 2000 and George Bush took it in 2004 (thanks to John Kerry’s inept campaign).  While the county backed Obama in 2008 and 2012, it did so only because Obama ran as a populist in the region, seeking to defend the average Joe from a Republican (Mitt Romney) that would ship their job overseas.

These voters were never really loyal to the Democratic Party even as they backed Obama.  They backed Congressional Republicans up and down the ballot that year, in the prior midterm  and the midterm after.  Since Clinton, Democrats have been losing their appeal to these voters.  Now, any cultural connection the party has with these voters is gone.  That’s great news for Trump and Republicans.  It is bad, bad news for a reeling Democratic Party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Democrats Have a Redistricting Plan?

gettyimages-464686108-640x480At long last, Democrats have a national redistricting strategy.  Or so they claim.  On Friday, former Attorney General Eric Holder announced the formation of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) which aims to combat GOP legislative majorities by waging court challenges and utilizing ballot initiatives to create nonpartisan commissions to draw legislative and Congressional lines. Democrats have long blamed gerrymandering for the GOP takeover of 2010 but are loathe to acknowledge the GOP won 66 seats in 2010 under old lines that FAVORED Democrats.

The NDRC is Democrats answer to the GOP’s Republican State Legislative Committee’s REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project).  Launched in 2009, REDMAP was a well funded joint project between the party and third party groups that spent millions on data infrastructure and the 2010 election results.  Since that time, the GOP has locked in its majorities in many states (though some gerrymanders have been undone by the courts and citizen initiatives).

According to the NDRC’s website “Republican gerrymandered districts after the 2010 Census have put Democrats at a massive structural disadvantage. That’s why the most important turning point for the future of the Democratic Party will take place in 2021: when states redraw their Congressional and state legislative lines.”  Additionally, “The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) is an organization of Democratic leaders enacting a comprehensive, multi-cycle Democratic Party redistricting strategy over the next 5 years and beyond.”  Beyond ballot initiatives and court challenges the NDRC will also focus on winning legislative contests in the years ahead.

Missing from the NDRC is any answer for how they will confront the non-gerrymandering aspects of their coalition. Democrats are good at arguing at how Republicans disenfranchise urban and minority voters but they refuse to admit these voters tend to do it to themselves.  By this I mean the majority of the Democratic votes in many states is locked into urban and dense suburban areas and is hard to find anywhere else.  While this makes gerrymandering for the GOP easier it also makes gerrymandering harder for Democrats to accomplish even if they are in control.

Take for example the state of Minnesota. After the 2016 elections the GOP controlled both chambers of the state legislature under a court drawn map favorable to Democrats.  The GOP lost their initial majority in the state legislature in 2012, regained the house in 14 and retook the state senate last year.  The GOP did not really have to do anything to facilitate this advantage.  Democratic policies like MCare (the state exchange) and the party becoming more cosmopolitan has cost the party seats just about everywhere else. Currently, Democrats do not control a single state senate district Romney won while the GOP does not control a single, urban Minneapolis seat.  The GOP gets the better end of the deal.

The Democratic argument that gerrymandering and voting laws are the reasons why the GOP has such a strong advantage in the states is partly true.  But, it is only partly true.  The polarization, both racial and geographical, in our politics means that Democratic voters pack themselves into areas where millions of votes are wasted (see an example here).  This means for Democrats to have any hope of establishing a decade long majority in many states they will have to practice their own form of gerrymandering.  And it will likely be far worse than the GOP’s.

To see an example of this dynamic take a look at Illinois legislative districts. Until last year, Democrats had veto proof majorities in the legislature to stop Bruce Rauner.  Democrats built this advantage by creating incredbly ugly House and Senate districts that mixed rural, conservative areas with dense, urban and Democratic suburbs (ironically, no liberal complains about this).  The Congressional Democratic gerrymander has already started to fall apart because the party could not fit down-state, rural areas into urban districts.  Democrats aimed to create a 13-5 majority in the Congressional delegation.  It now stands at 11-7 with a Democratic district being carried by Trump by double-digits.

Of course Democrats are silent on their partisan gerrymanders.  Maybe it is because they fall apart as we have seen in Illinois and in Minnesota.  But, even in purple Colorado they have fallen apart as well.  The state has a split legislature (even with term limits).  The current map, drawn by a Democrat appointed district judge, did everything to give Democrats a majority in the state senate.  It created huge GOP vote sinks in rural areas and unified Democratic leaning suburbs.  Urban Denver was kept intact while trending GOP Douglas County districts were merged with liberal Araphoe county precincts.  Yet, despite this, the GOP holds a slim one seat majority in the state senate because of the Democratic insistence on appealing only to cosmopolitan voters.

To be sure, the NDRC is not a policy orientated organization.  It cannot dictate to the party what legislative policies the party should pursue.  But it should recommend to the party a change of course in rhetoric.  Democrats have a systematic weakness in the states because their party appeals only to urban interests and rural and suburban voters have noted.  This helps lock Democratic votes into districts that waste votes while GOP voters are better distributed in suburban/rural areas.  Democrats can draw districts, like in Illinois, that merge urban/rural but they are incredibly ugly, non-compact and not very full-proof.

Until Democrats come up with a way to solve these issues no amount of gerrymandering will be able to help a party beholden to interests out of touch to voters in many states. This partly helps explain why Republicans since 2012 have consistently had about a +4 percent edge in the number of seats they control in the House compared to their popular vote total.  Democrats, even if they got every map they wanted, could never accomplish the same.

The GOP’s Northeastern Resurgence

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Vermont Governor-Elect Phil Scott captured a state Clinton won by 27 percent over Donald Trump

In 2001, Jim Jeffords, the Republican Senator from Vermont announced his intentions to break from his party and become an Independent.  He cited the party’s rightward shift on social and fiscal issues for his switch.  Nearly 7 years later, Northeastern Republicans would practically be an extinct species at every level; federal,  statewide executive offices and legislatures.  The Northeast, the ancestral home of the GOP, had become a no-man’s land for the party by the time Obama was elected President.

The numbers were startling.  Republicans did not control a single legislature in the Northeast at the start of 2009, they held a meager single US Senate seat (New Hampshire) and less than half a dozen Congressional seats in a region with over 60.

It did not always use to be this way.  The Northeast, combined with the Midwest, used to be the base of the modern GOP.  Without the Northeast Richard Nixon would not have been elected President in 1968.  Ronald Reagan in 1980 would have struggled to win the popular vote without its margins and of course there is Abraham Lincoln.

But as the parties shifted their ideological and geographical allegiances starting in the 60s so have voters.  The result has been the Northeast becoming a solid shade of blue not just for President but also in Congressional and legislative delegations as moderate Republicans have left the party while the South has become solidly red.

But starting in 2010 the GOP has seen a resurgence in the region.  Fueled by the Tea Party wave Republicans captured both chambers in New Hampshire and Maine and made gains in many others.  They even broke Democratic rule in New York State by winning enough state senate seats to force legislative Democrats to agree to a power-sharing arrangement in the upper chamber.

It was not just at the legislative level where Republicans made gains.  The party gained both Congressional seats in New Hampshire, a whopping 4 seats in New Hampshire and 5 seats in Pennsylvania.  Still, the party failed to make significant inroads at the state and Congressional level in deep blue states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Barack Obama’s reelection thinned the GOP herd’s numbers in the region.  New Hampshire flipped back congressionally and several Republicans disappeared in New York due to Romney’s anemic performance.

The 2014 midterms changed that.  For the first time since 2002 Republicans captured the Maryland Governor’s mansion, deep blue Massachusetts and (not in the Northeast) Illinois.  The party very nearly captured Connecticut as well (for the second time in a row).

Republicans did this by performing even better in the suburbs than they did in 2010.  For example, in Maryland, Larry Hogan ran far ahead of prior Republicans performances in suburban Baltimore and Howard counties.  He won Howard with 51 percent and Baltimore with 59 percent.  Despite the drop in turnout from 2010 he gained a combined 23,000 additional votes from the counties.  In exurban Carroll County he garnered 7,000 additional votes relative to 2010.   In Massachusetts, Charlie Baker improved on his 2010 performance by thousands of votes in conservative friendly Hampden and Bristol counties.  These bedroom counties gave him his narrow 40,000 vote margin.

Now, joining the mix after 2016 are John Sununu and Phil Scott.  Sununu captured New Hampshire’s Governorship, the first time the party has held it since 2002.  Phil Scott had arguably the bigger challenge.  He triumphed by 9 points in deep blue Vermont.  The same Vermont Clinton carried with 57 percent of the vote.

Republicans also made inroads in state legislatures.  For the first time since 2004 the party did not lose a legislative seat in Massachusetts and they even tied the Connecticut state senate (though Democrats still control the chamber due to the Lt. Governor’s partisan affiliation).

What has driven this shift at the state level is the increasing proclivity of some voters to base their votes for Governors or legislature on a separate criteria than federal contests.  This is not just a Northeastern, or until 2016, Midwestern phenomenon.  In 2015, Louisiana elected a Medicaid Expansion supporting Democrat over a died in the wool conservative Republican.  This year, while New Hampshire and Vermont backed Clinton they elected GOP Governors, red West Virginia, Montana and North Carolina elected Democratic Governors even as they gave Trump massive margins.

Perhaps most surprising is how popular many of these Governors are.   Both Baker and Hogan have stratospheric approval ratings in the 70s while Steve Bullock never dipped below 50 percent approval in his reelection battle in Montana.

Manifesting the partisan realignment that has occurred at the Congressional level many Congressional Republicans won reelection in Obama/Trump districts in the Northeast.  Standout examples of this include Brian Poliquin in ME-2 and John Katko in NY-24, Elise Stephanik in NY-21.

Part of the GOP resurgence in the Northeast has been being able to field strong candidates (see Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan) and facing weak opponents (see Martha Coakley in Massachusetts).  But, part of it has also been voters preferring a check on Democratic legislatures.  Likewise, some voters prefer a Democratic Governor to be a check on GOP legislatures outside the Northeast.

Not everybody shares this view however.  Former RGA Executive Director Michael Cox, a Massachusetts native who ran New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Presidential super PAC, sees this as more an outlier than a trend.

While Cox acknowledges the GOP does well when they run on “kitchen-table” issues, he is hesitant to say this represents a permanent resurgence for the party.  Rather, he describes “Our party’s success is situational.  It has more to do with great candidates, campaigns and a favorable political environment than an overarching trend.”

Certainly to some degree this is true.  But 2016 was not the best political environment for the party and successful candidates still outran Trump.

If 2009 represented the low-point for Northeastern Republicans 2017 might represent their high-point.  It’s clear many of the voters in the region lean clearly left and in the near future the GOP will always be swimming upstream to win in the area.  But, for now, the GOP’s resurgence in the region, compared to where it was in 2009, is nothing short of remarkable!

Of Democratic Dreams and 2018

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Heidi Heitkamp, (D-ND) is one of those 2018 Senators up for reelection in a ruby red, Trump state.  As a result, she has said she would work with Trump on areas they agree on.

Chuck Schumer incensed his base last week when he said he could work with Trump.  The liberal blogosphere went crazy, particularly here, arguing that working with Trump is a recipe for disaster for Senate Democrats.

Of course, if you look at the Senate map for 2018 the map is downright horrific.  Ten Democrats sit in states Trump won and only a single Republican sits in a Clinton state.  By default, you would think this means some of these Democrats, particularly in MO, MT, WV, IN and ND would want to distance themselves from the party’s national brand.

Running counter to this belief is Democratic dominance from the 50s to the 90s in Congress.  For the most part Republicans worked with moderate GOP Presidents and a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation.  The result was permanent minority status.  But, as soon as Newt Gingrich and his “revolutionaries” came around in the early 90s the GOP gained continual power power in Congress for a decade.  Indeed, since 94 the GOP has held the House in 9 of the last elections and the Senate 6-11.

This cycle for the first time in modern electoral politics, not a single Senate D/R candidate won a state of the opposite party’s Presidential nominee.  Democrats came up short in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida (just to name a few) while Republicans lost in Nevada and an agonizingly close race in New Hampshire.

It is the New Hampshire race that stands out though and shows how electoral history can be made by a few hundred votes.  Flip 250 votes in New Hampshire and Ayotte would have won reelection and a state Trump lost.  So despite the argument politics is increasingly polarized there are signs a good candidate can still win or at least be competitive.

Not more than 4 years ago we witnessed a Presidential contest that featured plenty of ticket-splitting.  Democrats won Senate contests in Missouri, West Virginia, Montana, Indiana and North Dakota.  All states Romney won by hefty margins.  Republicans won an open Nevada Senate seat.  A state Obama won.

These candidates all had things in common.  They ran away from their national party’s worst tendencies and showcased their best.  Admittedly, many of these candidates had the luxury of running against flawed opponents but still.

All this is a round-about way of saying that having a party leader who stresses pragmatism, as Reid once did, and Schumer does now, is not necessarily a bad thing for a party facing a daunting Senate map.  If Trump is popular come 2018 at least vulnerable Democrats can say they worked to make the system better.  If Trump is not, they are sure to benefit from voters turning out against him.  They might even get a few 2016 Trump voters to boot.

Contrary to the belief that undying opposition to the incumbent party in the White House stands the Democrats of 2006 and 2008.  Believe it or not, Democrats worked with Bush in 05 to pass immigration reform.  It was Republicans who derailed it.  Meanwhile, Democrats were smart and attacked Bush on corruption and reforming Social Security.  In 2007 and 2008 Democrats, even while in control of Congress, again worked with Bush to provide funding for the War in Iraq and domestic programs.

Ironically, this might be the only route available for Democrats to avoid losing seats in 2018.  Undying opposition to a Trump Presidency might make liberal voters swoon and GOP voters sour on Trump but if you are sitting in a Trump +20 state you need a lot of liberals to vote and a lot of sour Republicans not to.  And I hate to break it to Democrats but the odds of that happening are really, really small.

 

Minnesota: The One Midwestern State Where Democrats Outran The Trump Wave

minnesota_2016_presidential_election_results_by_congressional_district_-_twitterDonald Trump came closer than any modern Republican to winning Minnesota’s 10 Electoral College votes.  He fell a mere 45,000 votes short out of almost 3 million cast.  Still, Republicans did retake the state senate and add to their then narrow house majority.  But, it was Congressional Democrats that found the greatest success.

Not a single Congressional seat switched parties in the state, though 5 contests were close.  The GOP narrowly held the suburban Minneapolis based 2nd CD and by a larger margin the 3rd while Democrats managed to hold the rural 1st, 7th and 8th districts.

Despite losing the state Trump actually managed to win 5 of the state’s 8 Congressional districts (3 of them held by Democrats) by wide margins.  Trump won the 1st by 15 points, the 7th by a whopping 30 points and the 8th by 15 points.  Clinton actually won the 3rd by about 9 points.

What Minnesota gives Democrats is hope that they can outrun the GOP tide in the future.  This is the second election in a row Tim Walz has held his 1st district by a point in a GOP wave.  Rick Nolan in the 8th fended off another stiff challenge from a repeat opponent.  Collin Peterson, an institution in the 7th district, won a district by 7 points that Trump won by 30.

It is not just that these Democrats outran the Trump wave but they have consistently outrun GOP waves over and over again.  If anything, these Congressman offer Democrats a route forward to winning competitive districts in unfriendly territory.

Even if you discount the fact the GOP did not target the 1st or the 7th this year and only the 8th it is clear that Minnesota stands as an aberration to the rest of the Midwest (and the nation for that matter)  Out of the 100 or so districts the Daily Kos has compiled final numbers for only 8 have split their ticket for Congress and President.  Half of them can be found in Minnesota and none showed such stark margin differences as Minnesota (indeed, the C/P results have all been within 2-5 points of each other).

It will likely only get harder for Democrats to replicate this kind of success in the future however.  It takes long-time Congressmen with strong connections to their districts to outrun their party’s nominees over and over again.  Once a Walz or Peterson retire odds are good Democrats will lose these increasingly red, non gerrymandered districts.

Worse, the increasingly young and urban coalition fueling Democrats makes it even harder for their party to find successors to a Walz or Peterson.  As the party drifts left it remains unlikely a new candidate will be able to distance him/herself from the national brand.

Republicans would be smart to note these shifts and run candidates accordingly.  The GOP threw millions into the 8th but their candidate, Stewart Mills, was a Romney in a younger skin competing in a district with a strong union, populist voting base.  Republicans did not throw any money into the 7th and 8th this cycle.  Perhaps they should in 2018.

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.