Friday, April 30, 2010


Coming up: Arkansas

I'll be on later today with a post on why I believe Blanche Lincoln will have to face a runoff...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Charlie, the Dark Horse, Crist

Charlie Crist looks like he'll be declaring his independent candidacy tomorrow. I think his chances of winning are quite low. As I have pointed out, Crist will be not be the new Joe Lieberman. Crist will not have the dough and more importantly Kendrick Meek is no Alan "Gold" Schlesinger, the sacrificial Republican lamb in '06 Connecticut. But even if somehow Crist got some money, the math just does not seem there.

Looking at the four most recent polls and using the Florida electorate calculator created by my boss Mark Blumenthal, it is very difficult for me to see the path for Crist to win... even in his best case scenario.

Issue 1:
As Nate Silver has noted, Marco Rubio is well on his way to earning 70-80% of the Republican vote in a general election. Rubio's net favorable split among Republicans was an astronomical 66/8 in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Only one of last four polls has registered Crist's support among Republicans above 30%, while the average is in the upper 20's. Expect that number to fall or stay level once Crist declares an Independent candidacy. Does anyone think undecided Republicans will flock to the candidate who deserted the party (Crist) and not the Republican they like (Rubio)?

Issue 2:
Since 1998, no Democratic candidate for major statewide office has earned less than 78% of the Democratic vote. Even in the Jeb Bush romp of Buddy MacKay in 1998, Bush only took 21% of the Democratic vote. Crist only got 14% of Democrats in 2006. Now you may say Crist running as an independent candidate will be different. Maybe. Remember Meek, an African-American, will almost certainly win all the approximately 20% of African-American Democrats. But for arguments sake, we will say that does Crist holds the nearly 30% of Democrats polls claim he will get come November (and those polls will change as Meek brings up his very low name recognition with advertising).

Issue 3:
Independents. Crist is in the mid to upper 30's in all the polls among his "base". So said number may rise on declaration of an independent run, but they probably will not. Why? Most independents usually lean strongly to one party or the other. It is the reason that Lieberman's numbers stayed steady among independents even after he declared an independent run in 2006.

So where does that leave us? Using the 2006 midterm electorate as a model (it worked quite well in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009 and Massachusetts in 2010) and giving Crist his most favorable electoral breakdown (30-R, 30-D, 50-I), he only gets 35% of the vote. That means, he would have to pray that Rubio and Meek literally split the rest of the vote down the middle.

Just to show you how tenuous this prayer is give Meek 2% of Republican support and understand Meek will probably take at least that much. All of a sudden, Crist takes only 34.2% of the overall vote.

It is literally a straw house that the big bad wolf is ready to blow over

Monday, April 26, 2010


Dem Doom on Generic Ballot Still

This will be part of a series of Generic Ballot posts this week. I am currently in consultation with David Shor (a much smarter person than I) of Stochastic Democracy on an improvement to the "Bafumi" model. This post will be updated as warranted. Stay tuned.

When I first forecast a doom and gloom House of Representatives forecast for Democrats in February, I got a major response from across the spectrum. Since that time, others from my boss Mark Blumenthal to Alan Abramowitz to Nate Silver have chimed in on the conservation.

For those that do not remember, I plugged in the current generic vote estimate into a midterm House national vote model brought to us by Joseph Bafumi, Robert Erikson, and Chris Wlezien. Two months ago, the model predicted the Republicans would win the National House vote by around 8% and almost certainly win control of the House. What I love about the model is that it is the only one I know of that is not based off of the notion of "if the election were held today". Rather, the model takes into account how far out you are from a midterm election. This time adjustment gives the model an extra degree of accuracy because it turns out that the generic ballot tends to have a Democratic as well as current party of the president bias this far out from an election. That is, the Democratic party and the party of the president almost always do better on the generic ballot this far out than they do in November.

As we are now "only"
189 days until the election, I thought it was time to re-examine my initial post and see where we stand according to the model. The purpose here is not to not predict the exact percentage of the National House vote the Republicans will get OR the exact amount of House seats they will win. If I could do that, I'd be heading to Vegas. What I want to show is the chance Republicans win at least a majority of the national vote and seats in the House of Representatives.

Before we begin, let us lay down some ground rules. First, since this model was based of what I believe was entirely live interview polls (as opposed to those conducted using a computer or automated voice), I am only going to use those. That means I will not be using Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen, or YouGov/Polimetrix. This exclusion does not mean these pollsters are inaccurate (and lord knows I have defended
automated voice polls to the high heavens), but these polls may have a bias on the generic ballot that this model does not take into account. Second, I will also be taking out all Republican firm polls because I want to illustrate that the result the model outputs is not due to some Republican bias in the polling data.

With that out of the way, let us begin with a projection for the National House vote. As you can see, Republicans currently hold a 45%-42% lead in the aggregate. If you allocate undecideds based on how those who already registered a preference say they are going to vote [Republican % of vote / (Republican % of vote + Democratic % of vote)], it's about a 3.4 point Republican advantage. As the chart below illustrates and as it was in February, Republicans have not since the generic ballot was first implemented in 1946 held such a large advantage this far out from an election with a Democrat in the White House. Because of the unprecedented nature of this lead, the model projects Republicans will win the national popular vote by about 8.6%. Put another way, Democrats garner about 45.7% of the two way National House vote.

The question that should be running through your mind is how accurate is this forecast? The root mean square error is 1.82% for the Democratic share of the two way National vote. If we double the root mean square error, we will essentially (not perfectly) have your standard 95% confidence interval. So if we add 2*1.82 to our models estimate of 45.7, we end up with an upper threshold for the Democratic share of the two-way National House vote of a little less than 49.4%. Of course, 2.5% of the region outside of our 95% confidence is on the lower end (meaning actually below our estimate for the Democratic two way vote). Thus, there is only a 2.5% chance that the actual Democratic vote ends up being greater 49.4%. The model would have to be really, really off the mark for the Democrats to win the National House vote.

What about actual House seats? Each House election has a different popular vote to seats curve, which makes projecting control of the House more difficult than forecasting the National House vote. Later this year when it becomes clear how many incumbents are running for re-election and the quality of their challengers, we will be to use more precise votes to seat measurements as Bafumi et al. did in 2006 and Jonathan Kastellec, Andrew Gelman, and Jamie Chandler did in 2006 and 2008.

For now, we can use a less precise generic vote to seats estimate that Bafumi et al. supply (see
page 9). Taking the current two way generic vote and allocating undecideds as we did above, we find that the model predicts that Democrats will win only 44% (or 191) of the House seats. Now personally I do not believe a 66 seat lost for the Democrats is likely. I think it will likely be lower. Still, the standard error of the estimate of this projection is +/-3.70%. That is, we can be 68% confident that the ultimate percentage of seats controlled by the Democrats in the House will be +/-3.70 of 44%. Remember half of the 32% (100 - 68) of the uncertainty can be relegated to Democrats garnering lower than what is within our confidence interval. Only 16% of the time would we expect Democrats to do better than winning 47.70% of the House seats.

Now does mean the Democrats are dead in the water? Not automatically. Keep in mind this data is based off of only 15 elections (though the inclusion of the 2006 midterm makes no
substantive difference in the model's accuracy, see page 41). For all we know, something that really shakes up the political atmosphere may happen. But to ignore what are some pretty clear historical signs would be crazy.

As I said two months ago, I have a very hard time believing the Democrats maintain control of the House.


For the nerds out there who will actually look at the Bafumi, Erikson, and Wlezien paper, you will know that I did something slightly different than what they did. If I did use just a general average (weighting by sample size) as Bafumi et al. did and take into account not weighting by likely voters (see
page 18), I would still be projecting with the same certainty that the Democrats lose the national House vote and control of the House.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Generic Vote: Update

I will definitely be doing a post on this tomorrow... But I will be projecting a Republican controlled House of Representatives with 85% confidence... and the Republican party winning the National House Vote with 98% confidence...

And yes from this far out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Test: Campaign Finance Calculator

This will hopefully be part of a larger and more organized post in the next few days...

Whenever the latest quarterly reports from candidates are reported by the Federal Election Committee (FEC), I really have no clue what the heck is going on. How can raising $2 million in a campaign for Senate in New Hampshire be comparable to $5 million in a campaign for Senate in New York.

So here is what I did. I compiled the finance reports of all Senate races that were rated competitive by the Cook Political Report as of the 1st quarter of 2010. Most of these data are available from OpenSecrets, but I had to fill in some gaps using news reports from the National Journal among others. I collected both cash-on-hand (the amount campaigns have left to spend) and the total amount raised in the campaign for the most likely candidate to win the Democratic and Republican nominations.

But how do you compare between states? I found out the total amount of voters in each of these states in the last midterm election (2006) from a nicely compiled list by Michael McDonald at George Mason University.

I then took the amount of money raised and cash-on-hand and divided each of these by the amount of voters in 06. Therefore, we know how much each candidate has raised per voter in a state. The amount of voters in a state will correlate pretty highly with the amount needed for advertising, direct mail etc. This allows us to know if $5 million raised by a candidate in a large state is really that much compared to $1 million by a candidate in a small state.

I've also included where the race currently stands according to the aggregate or RealClearPolitics, if a aggregate is not available.

Here's a preliminary table... be on the look out for a more substantive post in the future. What you see is pretty simple. Harry Reid is down by a lot, but he'll have a lot of cash to try and make up that deficit. Barbara Boxer, on the other hand, may have over $8.7 million, but that really isn't that much considering how many voters are in California. Luckily for her, Tom Campbell (the likely Republican nominee) can only spend around 12 cents per voter right now (that number should go up if he wraps up the nomination).

Either way, it is just another way to look at fundraising. On the left side is the regular fundraising just toggle to the right to see money per voters. Also feel free to stretch out the columns to read their full names. This post is still preliminary, but I like getting things out there.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Florida Calculator test

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Post in Progress: Is Crist the new Lieberman

This post is a rough outline for a post, but it is placed online as a sort of copyright. It compares Joe Lieberman's successful senate run as an independent and Charlie Crist's possible run in Florida.

Comparing a poll three weeks before Lieberman became an independent in 2006 and the last Quinnipiac poll from Florida (three weeks before deadline). and

1. Lieberman had a 20% net approval (Crist's is only +10). His approval was +3 among
Dems (only +15 for Crist), +48 among Reps (+7 for Crist), and +16 among Indies (only
+13 for Crist). In other words, Lieberman doing significantly better in his crossover
appeal and among indies. Lieberman's favorable among Reps was +43 among Reps (+7 for
Crist), +11 among Dems (+20 among Dems), and +19 among Indies (+15 among for Crist).

2. Schlesinger, like Meek, is unknown, but Schelsinger was even more unknown. Only 9%
were able to form an opinion. 24% can form an opinion about Meek, and unlike
Schlesinger, Meek's response has been overwhelmingly positive.

3. Lieberman led in the last pre-primary three poll by 24% over Lamont and was over
50%. Crist only leads by 2% over Rubio and is only at 32%. As you said, an indie's best
day is before he declares.

4. Money. MEEK HAS ALREADY RAISED $4.7 MILLION. Schelsinger raised $221,000 for the entire election.

Crist's only raised $1.1 million in the second quarter. Rubio raised $3.6 million. Although Crist currently holds a 4 million dollar edge in fundraising (and cash-on-hand), Rubio should easily be able to make that up and probably exceed Crist with the netroots and party infrastructure behind him.

Crist won't be able to boot Meek from the race, and he won't be able to outspend Rubio.

Exit poll make up in 2006. Not that many indies in Florida who are Crist's strongest group.
38 Democrats, 26 Republican, 36 independent - Connecticut
36 Democrats, 39 Republican, 25 independents - Florida

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


To believe or not, Rasmussen on PA's Dem Sen Primary

Is the latest Rasmussen poll for the Democratic Senate Primary in Pennsylvania showing Joe Sestak trailing by only 2% to Arlen Specter an "outlier"? By pretty much any person's definition, it is.

Take a look at the aggregate prior to the Rasmussen poll being added:

Specter leads by over 22%, and the trend lines are pretty flat (indicating a stable race). Do any other recent polls have Sestak even close to Specter?

A Quinnipiac poll released just last week showed Specter up by 21%. Indeed as the table above shows, Rasmussen's last poll also showed a much closer race (11% Specter lead) than other polls taken around that same time (all showing a 20%+ Specter lead).

Now does that mean Rasmussen is wrong? That is not my place to say; however, I would not dismiss Rasmussen out of hand. A little dip into the polling archive reveals that a Quinnipiac poll taken around this time for the 2004 Republican Senate Primary had then Republican Specter leading Pat Toomey by 15%. A Quinnipiac poll taken only two weeks later had Specter up by only 5%. He would go on to win by only 2%. So maybe it will be the other pollsters playing catchup to Rasmussen... Only time will tell.


Rasmussen: Generic Ballot Right or Wrong?

Are Democrats going to lose 60+ seats? A lot has been written about the generic ballot in the past week. One thing Alan Abramowitz '02 (vs. a separate model that incorporates presidential approval) and Nate Silver's findings agree upon is that if the Republicans win the generic vote by 3.0% or greater on election day, they will probably take control of the House of Representatives. A loss of 7 points or more would result in a 1994 or worse scenario for Democrats.

The latest Rasmussen poll has Republicans winning on the generic ballot by 9 points (47%-38%). Is Rasmussen right? Could they be even under-doing a Republican romp as Nate Silver suggests they may?

The answer is maybe.

Since 2002, when Rasmussen first asked the generic ballot question, they underestimated, nailed, and overestimated the Republican vs. Democratic margin. As the table above illustrates, Rasmussen's final pre-election poll low-balled the Republican margin in 2004 by 8.2%, but did the exact opposite in 2008, overshooting it by over 4%.

It should be noted that Rasmussen adopted its currently dynamic weighting process in 2006, which helped them perfectly predict the spread between the two parties in the national house vote in 2006. Yet, this same dynamic weighting led to Rasmussen under-predicting the Democratic victory in 2008.

Interestingly, the spread between the two parties on the generic ballot barely budged from April to Election Day from 2004-2008 . That is, Rasmussen's polling was very stable, which can likely be contributed to Rasmussen's weighting by party. Of course, in only 2006 could the stability be seen as a sign of accuracy.

So what does all of this information tell us about Rasmussen's generic ballot polling 2010?

Basically, it may be accurate or it may not be, but it will most likely be consistent.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Senate Update: Republicans right on the edge

About a month ago I made a post on how the Republicans really had a pretty darn decent chance of taking back the United States Senate based on historical polling data since 2006. I thought it might wise to update that analysis right now.

For those that do not remember, no governor or senator has been re-elected when trailing by more than 1.5 points in a January to June polling average. Needless to say, Democratic incumbents are still in major trouble.

Here's a race by race rundown of the January-now average with likely Democratic incumbents and Republican opponents.

Starting with the incumbents:
1. Arkansas- Leaving aside Bill Halter, who if he wins the primary all bets are off, we see that Blanche Lincoln has a better chance of becoming a New York Yankee than winning re-election. Against John Boozman, Lincoln trails by 14.6%. Against Gilbert Baker, it is not much better at 11.1%.

2. Nevada- Harry Reid better hope the supposed Tea Party candidate has a get out of jail key card because the numbers look like the average day in Syracuse, NY (downright dark). He trails Sue Lowden by 9.4% and Danny Tarkanian by 7.9%.

3. Colorado- Sticking with the incumbent Michael Bennet (trust me the numbers are NOT brighter for Andrew Romanoff), the polls are not looking all that bright. He trails Jane Norton by 7.4%, and he is down 1.7% to less likely nominee Ken Buck. Bennet better pray on facing the latter.

4. Pennsylvania- Arlen Specter might have finally run out of luck. He looks like he'll make it passed Joe Sestak, but history is against him in the general. He trails Pat Toomey by 4.8% in the average. Indeed, Specter seemed to get an umph in March, but the latest polling shows him falling right back behind.

5. New York- About the best news for Democrats. Kirsten Gillibrand still trails George Pataki by an average of 3.4%, but Pataki is more likely to run for President (and lose). I guess Gillibrand has the luck of Dartmouth behind her.

6. Washington- I'm going to wager that Dino Rossi does run. Right now, the average has Patty Murray up by 1%. If Rossi jumps in, expect a lot of ratings on this race to change in a hurry.

7. California- This race should be a lot higher on people's list. Barbara Boxer only leads Tom Campbell by 3.25% in the average. If Carly Fiorina and her farm animals win the nomination, she trails by 5.9% on the average. Boxer better pray for sheep.

8. Wisconsin- As of my last rankings, I did not believe Tommy Thompson would enter, but he is now about 50-50. He has got a 4% lead over Russ Feingold. If Thompson does not enter... well say goodnight to a Republican pickup opportunity.

I count at least 4 greater than 50-50 pickups in there and maybe more depending on whether Thompson or Pataki runs.

What about the non-incumbents?

1. North Dakota- John Hoeven (R) leads by an average of 47.5% over Tracy Potter (D). It is over (barring a scandal of some sort).

2. Delaware- Mike Castle (R) leads by an average of 22.7% over Chris Coons (D). Coons will need to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

3. Indiana- If Dan Coats (R) is the nominee, he beats Brad Ellsworth (D) by 10%. If John Hostettler (R) is the nominee, he defeats Brad Ellsworth by 14.3% . Either way, it looks difficult for Ellsworth at this point.

4. Illinois- Well, I must say Alexi Giannoulias (D) is in deep stuff against Mark Kirk (R). Family banks are messy business, and he now trails by 0.5% (including a few internal polls found in the last post). Expect it to get worse for Giannoulias, if the banking stories get worse.

So what does that leave us with? Republicans need 10 seats for control. History and polling dictate they are right on the edge. They would probably take 9 seats, if the election were held today.


You heard it here first

Right. Well, let me state it once from the mountains for y'all to hear. There isn't a SINGLE CONGRESSIONAL MEASUREMENT INDICATING THE REPUBLICANS DON'T DO VERY WELL THIS NOVEMBER.

Presidential approval, which has been linked in the past to Congressional loses, is about the only "good" measurement right now. Though if we look back to last big Republican wave (1994) that so-called advantage died for Democrats around July.

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