Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Electoral Arabesque (sic)

Much has been made of the story how then-Gov. George W. Bush captured the bulk of votes cast by Arab Americans in 2000, who were reported to have turned out in record numbers, and how the Bush admin.'s post-9/11 policies drove those same voters to away to the welcoming arms of the Democrats four years later in even more dramatic numbers. Anecdotal evidence abounded, but many observers remained skeptical, noting that though fast-growing, the slice of the American electorate comprised of Arab Americans remained a mere sliver, posing a challenge for any researcher to draw a representative sample.

And, like Asian American voters in much of the U.S., there are few places where Arab Americans have congregated and registered to vote in numbers large enough to be reflected in county, or even precinct, level returns.

In investigating Detroit area returns, I stumbled upon what may be rare confirmation of this story reflected in election returns. In the 1930's, Henry Ford published the Dearborn Independent in the white, working class Detroit suburb, home to many of his employees, as a platform for his anti-Semitic proselytizing. Today, Dearborn, Michigan is recognized as a mecca (no pun intended) for Arab American culture, home to generations-old Christian Arab Americans and more recent Muslim immigrants.

Assuming that in the four year interregnum that the Dearborn City Clerk did not unilaterally renumber the city's precincts, note the stunning plummet in the Bush vote in selected Dearborn precincts here. Other precincts posted less dramatic change, but the overall effect was enough to turn a turn a 52%-44% (with 3.6% for Nader, Dearborn-wide) Bush win in 2000 into a 40%-59% loss four years later.

These precincts posted much higher percentages for Nader than the less volatile precincts, suggesting that these precincts may indeed be heavily Arab American. Nader, remember, is of Lebanese descent and was reported to have gained significant support among his fellow Arab Americans.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Suburban Sweep

USA Today has a story today on the big gains Dems made in the suburbs this year. One need go no further than Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and even Arizona to see the outcome. In inner-ring suburbs, Dems got 60% of the vote, up from 53% in 2002. They won 55%/45% in the next ring of suburbs and cut Republican leads in the growing "exurbs." Here's the study from Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute that crunches the numbers. Analysis to come soon.

Yankee Republicans RIP?

From today's New York Times, the loss of New England Republicans is quite staggering. Only one Republican House member from New England--Chris Shays. While the magnitude of this on the congressional level has been discussed for the past few weeks, what happened at the state and local level is equally compelling.

This Confounds Me...

In skulking - only virtually, sadly - around the Tennessee House, a chamber of which, had I been whisked away only weeks before, at an "eccentric millionaire's" behest last winter, I would have enjoyed an insider's tour by one of that institution's resident (and perhaps preeminent) historians, I came across this curiosity: an Afro-Am Democratic state Rep., unopposed in this last election, representing Tennessee's 2nd State House district.

This is curious on two folds: First of all, the Hon. Nathan Vaughan (a very distant relation of the Border Vaughts?) represents Kingsport, although merely the largest settlement, though still yet not the county seat, of Sullivan County, Tenn., the hick 'burgh nevertheless enjoys notoriety as a leg of the tripod known as the "Tri-Cities" of the Volunteer State's Grand Division of East Tennessee. Along with Johnson City, Kingsport shares this distinction with Bristol, where country music as we know it - or never knew it (think Garth Brooks) - was born, commercially, when the haunting sounds of the Carter family, hailing from the Hills & Hollers of SW Virginia, and Jimmie Rodgers, the Blue Yodler transplanted from the Alabama-Mississippi border, were captured, manufactured and disseminated as far and wider than even WSM's signal could travel. Kingsport, though, can boast of its favorite daughter, Miss Bettie Page.

Kingsport's modest industrial heritage rendered it less rock-ribbed in the Republicanism of the surrounding counties of East Tennessee, but it remains a commercial crossroads for area, a Unionist redoubt during the Civil War. Indeed, while presidential races were hotly contested - reflecting the close division here during the "War Between the States" - Sullivan Co. refused to offer up Republican majorities until 1952, save for the anti-Papist fervor of '28. And, though Wallace posted a "respectable" second place in '68, that only underscores how Wallace's populist appeal was broad enough not only to capture votes in the racially charged reaches of the North, but also to make inroads into Appalachia's Mountain Republican counties, once loyal to the Union and, due to the scarcity of Afro-Ams living amongst them, rarely agitated by base racial appeals that resonated through much of the South. That ancestral Unionism bequeathed a history of Republican partisanship not only uncommon to the South, but rarely replicated, then, outside of rural New England.

Indeed, Sullivan County's population is mere 1.89% "Black or African-American," and Kingsport, proper, registers a less modest 4.22% Now, East Tennessee has always had a rebellious streak, not only challenging the Confederacy, but the early United States, too. Sullivan County was included in the ill-fated breakaway "Lost State of Franklin," that sought recognition by the U.S. government in the late 18th Century.

So, I understand how gun owning, peanut farmer Yellow Dog Democrats in Georgia, living among a considerable black population, could be convinced to retain their partisanship when a savvy, Good Ole "Boy" Blue Dog like Sanford Bishop can work the county BBQs and speak their language. But, tell me: how does a honky whose great-great grandpappy came down off the mountain to don a blue uniform and shoot toward Memphis, and his great-grandpappy who never even saw a black man overcome his Republican partisanship to return a black man to the state House with a (D) next to his name?

For more, note this: Kerry didn't even carry a precinct in Kingsport, let alone Sullivan Co. and favorite son, Albert Gore, Jr. only captured two in 2000:

2000 Presidential Election Data - Tennessee

Sullivan County by Precinct

PrecinctTotal VoteBGMargin %MarginBushGoreOtherBushGoreOther
01 S Holston Ruritan44212317.01% 52.71% 45.70% 1.58%233202 7
02Hv Holston View1,3691250536.89% 67.64% 30.75% 1.61%926421 22
02Vp Valley Pike392125213.27% 56.12% 42.86% 1.02%220168 4
03 Hickory Tree Fire4641214230.60% 64.44% 33.84% 1.72%299157 8
04A Avoca School8441215318.13% 57.94% 39.81% 2.25%489336 19
04Os Avoca Firehl1,0181225825.34% 61.89% 36.54% 1.57%630372 16
05N Sullivan Cnty N9251214515.68% 57.30% 41.62% 1.08%530385 10
05S Public Library1,2321230825.00% 61.61% 36.61% 1.79%759451 22
06 Central Heights8451216018.93% 57.99% 39.05% 2.96%490330 25
07 Indian Springs1,8451273539.84% 69.27% 29.43% 1.30%1,278543 24
07C Firehall #33571216345.66% 71.99% 26.33% 1.68%25794 6
08 Buffalo Ruritan5061210821.34% 59.29% 37.94% 2.77%300192 14
09 Piney Flats Fire9741219520.02% 59.14% 39.12% 1.75%576381 17
10Bd Ketron Ms1,2831226920.97% 59.78% 38.82% 1.40%767498 18
10Ob Orebank Mb6401211417.81% 57.19% 39.38% 3.44%366252 22
11Aj A Johnson Sch55412468.30% 53.25% 44.95% 1.81%295249 10
11C Kingsport Annex54712397.13% 52.29% 45.16% 2.56%286247 14
11Cg Cedar Grove9491220521.60% 59.96% 38.36% 1.69%569364 16
11D Dickson Center7651214819.35% 58.56% 39.22% 2.22%448300 17
11E Renaissance Ctr7411226335.49% 67.21% 31.71% 1.08%498235 8
11G Gravely School499129318.64% 58.32% 39.68% 2.00%291198 10
11J Grace Evangel1,0241223723.14% 60.55% 37.40% 2.05%620383 21
11R Kingsport Ch.1,1941223019.26% 58.46% 39.20% 2.35%698468 28
11S Civic Auditorium9732115816.24% 40.90% 57.14% 1.95%398556 19
11W Kingsport Libry65121223.38% 47.00% 50.38% 2.61%306328 17
12Br N. Kpt Firehal5261212724.14% 61.41% 37.26% 1.33%323196 7
12Cb Ridgefields1,0961234631.57% 64.87% 33.30% 1.82%711365 20
12Lg Lynn View Ms58912528.83% 53.82% 44.99% 1.19%317265 7
12Ok Firehall #48201211614.15% 56.59% 42.44% 0.98%464348 8
12Wv Wv Baptist487129319.10% 58.52% 39.43% 2.05%285192 10
13P Sull. South HS1,7701244124.92% 61.81% 36.89% 1.30%1,094653 23
14Ch Colon. Hgts. Ms2,0571267732.91% 65.53% 32.62% 1.85%1,348671 38
14Mp Miller Perry S1,4401245931.87% 64.93% 33.06% 2.01%935476 29
15 Sullivan West Ms1,0061213713.62% 55.96% 42.35% 1.69%563426 17
16Bc Bluff City Ms1,0431211711.22% 54.84% 43.62% 1.53%572455 16
16Cg Chinquapin455129420.66% 60.22% 39.56% 0.22%274180 1
17E Fairmount Sch1,13912484.21% 51.19% 46.97% 1.84%583535 21
17S Haynesfield Sch8921213615.25% 56.28% 41.03% 2.69%502366 24
17W Anderson School1,3461218914.04% 55.94% 41.90% 2.15%753564 29
18 Holston Mid Sch6251214222.72% 60.48% 37.76% 1.76%378236 11
19H E Cherokee Sch1181275.93% 50.85% 44.92% 4.24%6053 5
20 Rocky Spgs. Comm5771213423.22% 60.66% 37.44% 1.91%350216 11
21 Weaver School8521216219.01% 59.15% 40.14% 0.70%504342 6
22 Holston Valley Ms4091211227.38% 62.59% 35.21% 2.20%256144 9
Absentee1,4751236124.47% 61.36% 36.88% 1.76%905544 26
Early15,972123,75923.53% 61.21% 37.67% 1.12%9,7766,017 179
Total55,7271212,12821.76% 60.08% 38.32% 1.60%33,48221,354 891

Friday, November 17, 2006

Badger Ballot Breakdown IV

Some more exit poll information coming out of Wisconsin. Much higher turnout among college aged students. Its being theorized that the gay marriage ban (which passed) brought out higher numbers of previously disengaged young voters. The beneficiaries--not only re-elected Governor Jim Doyle, but Democratic candidates for the state legislature. This was especially pronounced in the western part of the state, home to a significant number of colleges. Congressman Ron Kind (WI3), himself, has five branches of the UW system in his district. As I focused on in a previous post, the Democrats picked up two state Senate seats in this area. It goes to show that these ballot measures sometimes have serious unintended consequences.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

House Members Moving Up or Out?

Its quite common for House members to seek either Senate seats or governorships. This year saw 14 House members try to make the leap. In Senate races, 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans mounted campaigns; for governorships, 2 Democrats and 6 Republicans ran. The results:


3 Democratic wins (Cardin-MD, Brown-OH, Sanders-VT)
1 Democratic loss (Ford-TN)
2 Republican losses (Kennedy-MN, Harris-FL)


1 Democratic win (Strickland-OH)
1 Democratic loss (Davis-FL)
2 Republican wins (Otter-ID, Gibbons-NV)
4 Republican losses (Beauprez-CO, Nussle-IA, Green-WI, Istook-OK)

So, Democrats go 4 for 6, Republicans go 2 for 8.

For House members trying to make this jump, their records inevitably come into play. The thousands of votes they cast become parsed (we see the same thing during presidential races--i.e. Kerry) and, for those Republicans running this year, they got linked to an unpopular president. I know this was definately the case in Wisconsin. While the Governor of Wisconsin has little to say about the war in Iraq, the incumbent Jim Doyle quite successfully used the issue to attack Mark Green.

Using the Presidential Race to Identify Opportunities

Going into a midterm election, one thing each party would do, in trying to identify potential pick-ups, is look at presidential returns. Going into this year, Democrats would look for districts that Kerry carried but that were held by Republicans. Vice versa for Republicans.

Looking at the data, Kerry did not run ahead of a single Republican House member in ’04. Bush, meanwhile, ran ahead of 49 House Democrats. We know that not one of these Democratic seats changed hands. If we were to pick the 20 most “vulnerable” Republicans (including ties) coming into 2006 based on their vote relative to Kerry’s, these members would be targeted:

Member, District, Margin Over Kerry:
Simmons (CT2)--Even
Gerlach (PA6)--Even
Shays (CT4)--Even
Reichert (WA8) +1%
Nussle (IA1) +2%
Beauprez (CO7) +4%
Fitzpatrick (PA8) +4%
Leach (IA2) +4%
Wilson (NM1) +4%
Bass (NH2) +6%
Porter (NV3) +6%
Weldon (PA7) +6%
Thompson (CA1) +7%
Dent (PA15) +9%
Kuhl (NY29) +9%
Northrup (KY1) +9%
Dreier (CA26) +10%
Hyde (IL6) +10%
McCotter (MI11) +10%
Knollenberg (MI9) +10%
Sodrel (IN9) +10%

How did the Democrats do against these Republican incumbents? They picked up 9 (in bold).

Thus, while presidential returns can provide a starting point for parties trying to pick up seats, this year saw a large number of Democratic pickups in places we wouldn’t have expected coming into this cycle. Its been noted that a number of these Republican victims were tainted by scandal (Sherwood, Pombo, DeLay, Ney, Foley, Sweeney). Beyond these more “explainable” defeats, though, there certainly were some surprises (Ryun, Hayworth) that illustrate the degree to which the national or statewide mood can create unlikely victims.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tennessee Senate Comparison

A lot has been made of Harold Ford's near-victory in Tennessee. I thought it would be useful to see how close, comparatively speaking, he came. Flipping through some returns, I came across the 2002 race in Tennessee. It was similar to 2006 in three main respects--1) midterm election with 2) no incumbent running and the Democratic nominee an 3) incumbent House member. Here are the results:

***Note--Democratic counties in Red; Republican in Blue



Ford received a higher statwide vote total than 2002 Democratic nominee Bob Clement (48% vs 44%). Clement, on the other hand, won 6 more counties than Ford did. Ford actually did better than Clement in Nashville (Davidson County), which was Clement's back yard--61% vs 56%. Ford did much better than Clement in Memphis (Shelby County), which was his back yard--63% vs 49%.

As we would expect, the more urbanized parts of Tennessee went Democratic, and moreso this year than in 2002. The trick, thus, for Democrats statewide is to find a way to capture more of the rural vote. The fact that there are two Tennessee House Democrats from largely rural areas (Lincoln Davis and John Tanner) shows that it can be done, as does the success of just re-elected Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.

Incumbents' Performance vs. 2004

Looking deeper into the data, we can see more troubling signs for the Republicans coming out of the House elections. For example, lets look at those incumbents who did worse this year.

Compared to 2004:

158 Republicans got a lower percentage of the vote in 2006 than 2004.
70 of these received less than 60% of the vote this time.

39 Democrats got a lower percentage of the vote in 2006 than 2004.
6 of these received less than 60% of the vote this time.

Thus, aside from first term members (who tend to be the most vulnerable), the Democrats have many fewer members who might be vulnerable in '08--at least based on their recent performance.

To give some examples:

Jim Walsh (NY25)--91% to 51%
Mark Souder (IN3)--69% to 54%
Ron Lewis (KY2)--68% to 55%
Mike Castle (DE-AL)--69% to 57%
Deborah Pryce (OH15)--62% to 51%
Mark Kirk (IL10)--64% to 53%

None of these members were vulnerable this year due to scandal. Now it should be noted that oftentimes members recover from a close race and build up their support to previous levels. Challenger quality is also of great importance. And of course, we don't know what the political terrain will look like two years from now. Nonetheless, one can be sure that these members already have targets on their backs for '08.

Next, lets look at those members who did better this year.

Compared to 2004:

37 Republicans got a higher percentage of the vote in 2006 than 2004.

127 Democrats got a higher percentage of the vote in 2006 than 2004.

So--164 incumbents improved their performance; 197 saw their performance decline. Comparing the two cycles, Democratic incumbents vastly outperformed their Republican colleagues.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The First Big Number Crunch

Political scientists, especially in response to increased gerrymandering, have been concerned about the declining number of competitive or “marginal” House races. Because of the tremendous advantages that incumbents have in gaining re-election (recent cycles have seen re-election rates in the neighborhood of 95%) it is difficult for either party to gain seats, absent a large number of “open” seats in which no incumbent is running. Thus, leading into this year, many were skeptical of the ability of Democrats to capture the House majority. Now that we know that they did, we can begin to see how.

I’ve defined a “competitive” race as one in which the winning candidate received less than 60% of the vote. This year there were 2 races in which the Democrats picked up a previously held Republican seat by winning greater than 60% of the vote (IN8, OH18). These are clearly the exception to the norm. By focusing on competitive races, not only can we see more clearly whether one party outperformed another—beyond just looking at seats picked up or lost—but we can also begin to set the stage for the 2008 contest. Those races that were competitive in 2006 have the potential to be competitive in 2008, especially with the increased turnout of a presidential election year. So, what do we find?

Overall, there were 128 House races in which the winning candidate received less than 60% of the vote. Of these:

87 were won by Republicans
41 were won by Democrats

Of the 87 Republican wins:
78 were won by incumbents
9 were won by freshman members, all in open seat races previously held by a Republican (CA48, CO5, FL13, ID1, IL6, MI7, MN6, NE3, NV2)
No incumbent Democrat was defeated and no open seat previously held by a Democrat was won by a Republican.

Of the 41 Democratic wins:
11 were won by incumbents
30 were won by freshman members:
22 defeated Republican incumbents
8 won open seats
3 open seats were previously held by Democrats (IL17, MN5, VT- AL)
5 open seats were previously held by Republicans (AZ8, CO7, IA1, NY24, WI8)

What these numbers clearly show is that things could have been a whole lot worse for the Republicans. They won a tremendous number of close races and were able to mount a challenge to only a few Democratic incumbents. Only 6 of the Democratic incumbents got less than 55% (Barrow, Marshall, Bean, Boswell, Carson, Hooley).

Coming up---How did this year compare to 2004??

2006 vs. 2004 House Races

Here we see the change in the Republican vote across House districts between 2006 and 2004. The big shift, obviously, was in the northeast.

***Maps courtesy of DailyKos

Was It a Wave?

Here's an article that begins to delve into the data regarding the magnitude of the Democratic surge. The Democratic share of the vote, across races, was higher than it was for Republicans in 1994. I'm putting together some data now--that I should be ready to post in a day or so--that looks at incumbents' share of the vote over the past 2 cycles. What will be of interest is how many incumbents (and from where) saw their share of the vote go down substantially. We know of the incumbent defeats. We'll focus on the close calls--and therefore the potential targets for '08.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kansas Backlash?

The results in Kansas are quite interesting. The race that has gotten the most attention was the defeat of Jim Ryun. In this race, a rematch of 2004, Nancy Boyda picked up 10 points (2004--41%; 2006--51%). What needs to be explored more is the context that might have allowed this outcome to occur. Beyond Kathleen Sibelius winning re-election by a large margin, a number of former Republicans ran as Democrats in down-ballot races, including Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Both won in part by campaigning against the far right drift of the Kansas Republican party over the past decade or so. This article goes into this dynamic, focusing on the AG race. Whether is purging of the Republican ranks of moderates in Kansas is permanent remains to be seen but for Democrats trying to make inroads into the plains states, its certainly a positive sign.

What we can say about this, as of now, is that Republicans seemed to have stayed home in Kansas. Republican turnout was down 10.5% versus 2002, and turnout overall declined by slightly over 1%. So it doesn't seem like there's a wholescale movement to the Democrats. We just had a different electorate show up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Who Turned Out???

Lots of turnout data now becoming available. Biggest increase in turnout compared to 2002---Virginia.

Badger Ballot Breakdown III

One thing that I've always argued is that if you want to understand the success of Democrats in Wisconsin, you can't just focus on Milwaukee and Madison. While this is obviously where the most votes are and where Dems run up their margins, I would argue that it is the western part of the state that tells the true story of Democratic state wide success. On Tuesday the Democrats recaptured the state senate, in part by picking up two seats near Eau Claire (the 23rd and 31st).

If you compare these maps with the map showing the governor's results (earlier post), you can see how western Wisconsin is pretty consistently Democratic. It has three Democratic House members (Obey, Kind, Baldwin) and has voted Democratic in the past several presidential elections (Gore in particular can thank this area for his 2000 win in Wisconsin). While the area is heavily rural, there is still very much a Progressive pulse that runs throughout the region.

Badger Ballot Breakdown II

Here is the exit polling for Wisconsin as reported by CNN. Not much seems to differ from what's been reported about the mood nationwide. In summary:
Doyle got 59% of the self-described "Independent" vote and 51% of the Catholic vote (a big piece of the Wisconsin electorate).

As to the saliency of the war in Iraq, there was an overall 58% disapproval (37% strong disapproval) of the war. Doyle received 85% of this vote. 68% said the war is either "very" or "extremely" important to their vote. I will say that its hard to really gauge the true weight of this issue because the polling doesn't compare Iraq with other issues and come up with a ranking of importance.

There's also been some discussion about the role of Wisconsin's two referenda on the outcome of the governor's race. College towns had big increases in turnout to oppose the gay marriage ban. Doyle was the obvious beneficiary.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Blue Suburbs--Virginia Style

Here are the final numbers for the Webb/Allen Senate race in Virginia--Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William counties. Obviously this is where the race was won, but it really underscores the historical change that we've been seeing in the suburban vote over the last few years. The difference between 2000 and 2006--where Allen defeated incumbent Dem. Senator Chuck Robb is pretty amazing (Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William).

Badger Ballot Breakdown I

Here is a map showing the county by county vote totals for Wisconsin's governor's race. While the re-election of incumbent Jim Doyle (D) was not so much of a surprise, one thing jumped out at me.

The challenger in the race was Congressman Mark Green. His House district is essentially the northeastern corner of the state, centered around Green Bay. For any Republican running statewide in Wisconsin, you begin your campaign knowing that you are going to lose in Milwaukee and Madison (Dane County). The western part of the state (Eau Claire and La Crosse counties especially) have been pretty solidly Democratic over the years but competitive. Where Republicans really make their hay is in the corridor of counties extending north from Milwaukee up to Green Bay. My home county (Fond du Lac) is the second most Republican in the state. The center of Republican votes is Fond du Lac, Winnebago (Oshkosh), Outagamie (Appleton), and Brown (Green Bay).

Because this area also includes Green's congressional district (Brown and Outagamie) you would have expected him to clean up here. In fact, he didn't, and that's what is so interesting. In Brown county, Doyle and Green were essentially tied, and Doyle won small majorities in Outagamie and Winnebago. Why, I'm not so sure yet but this article might get at some of it.

Not only did the high independent turn-out seem to help Doyle, but I'm intrigued by the relationship between the governor's race and the open seat House race to succeed Green. Normally a strong Republican district, the Democratic candidate Steve Kagan managed to pick it up by defeating Wisconsin Assembly Speaker John Gard. Kagan, a largely self-funded candidate (physician) with no elected experience ran on a message of health care and getting out of Iraq. If the war message really resonated, he may have helped Doyle (who also ran ads linking Green to Bush). More to come as I get the Kagen/Gard numbers.

***Note that on the map pictured Red counties voted Democratic, Blue voted Republican--US Election Atlas uses that color scheme

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Here's a short snippet of analysis I did on Milwaukee Public Radio this morning. I want to expand on these ideas in the coming days.

And So We Begin

While there are still several races still to be called, some things are becoming clear, while others are still very murky. The goal of this blog is to sort all of this out.

Tentatively, a few things stand out. Looking to the new Congress, the Republican membership, as a whole, becomes much more conservative. The Democratic majority was by and large built by defeating what few Republican moderates were left--Nancy Johnson, Clay Shaw, Jim Leach. With DeWine and Chafee falling in the Senate, I find it hard to see this as a liberal surge. Democratic victors were largely of the Blue Dog type and will, in my mind, be the fulcrum of the 110th Congress.

Looking across the map, there seem to be a lot of things going on and I'm hesitant to ascribe a "meaning" to this election as of yet. Are the Democratic gains in the northeast explained by the same factors as the events in Indiana? Democrats have picked up two House seats in Florida, Iowa, and Arizona. I'm not sure what connects these.

One thing that may give credence to the "nationalization" argument is that it appears, as of now, that 6 incumbent senators have gone down to defeat. That doesn't just happen by accident, and its probably a result of more than just 6 good Democratic candidates running good races with ample funding.

And so, the analysis will continue...