Archive for the ‘Political Campaigns’ Category

It’s Campaign Season Again!

September 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Hey, I bet you didn’t know that the 2014 congressional campaign season has already started, but it has! Just this morning I received the following email:


And since congressional campaign season has seemingly started, let’s lay out some initial observations:

  1. Based on his official biography, Steve Anthony Colangelo is an amateur candidate. He has never held elected office. He may be an incredibly successful businessman, but business success does not carry over to political success. In fact, political science has demonstrated repeatedly that amateur candidates rarely win against incumbents; they tend to lose by very large margins.
  2. CD-9 is a moderately Democratic district. Any Republican is going to struggle to beat McNerney. McNerney (a weak incumbent) beat Gill (a strong challenger with lots of party and affiliated money) 56% to 44% in 2012. Obama also beat Romney 58% to 40%. Go back to 2010, and Brown would have beat Whitman 55-45.
  3. At least initially, Colangelo is pursuing Ricky Gill’s strategy of emphasizing his connection to the Central Valley. That’s all well and good, and it’s a reasonable attack on McNerney who moved to the Valley from the Bay Area when his district was redrawn. It also ignores the part of the district that is in Contra Costa County, which makes up about 30 percent of the district’s population. The Contra Costa section of the district is event more Democratic than the San Joaquin and Sacramento county portions.

All of this means that Colangelo faces a steep climb if he is going to beat McNerney. But who knows? He may not even make it to the November run-off. Another Republican might beat him in the initial, June election.


More on McNerney v. Gill

November 10, 2012 1 comment

In a previous post, I argued that Ricky Gill’s campaign made a strategic error in defining him as the San Joaquin candidate. (Here’s what I mean by that.) The argument got some blowback from Gill’s campaign consultant in the comments and Mike Fitzgerald at the Record. Since, admittedly, I oversold the argument in my first post I want to provide some context and elaborate on it a little more here.

It was always going to be hard for Ricky Gill to win his contest against Jerry McNerney. There were three primary strategic challenges facing Gill at the start of the contest:

1) Jerry McNerney was the incumbent. The maps below show McNerney’s old district (CD-11) and his new district (CD-9). Although the two differ in important ways, including the fact that McNerney’s old residence is not in CD-9, most of the new district overlaps the old one. Most voters in the new CD-9 previously saw McNerney’s name on their ballots.

CD-11 (McNerney's prior district)

McNerney’s old district, CD-11

McNerney’s new district (CD-9)

Read more…

The Popular Vote and the Electoral Vote

I did something like this in 2008, but it’s worth another mention in the context of the 2012 election. The Electoral College exaggerates the support that the winning presidential candidate receives. The graph below shows the percentage of the two-party (Republican and Democratic) popular vote received by the winner and the percentage of the electoral vote received by the winner. The 45-degree line shows what a one-to-one relationship would be between these two measures.

The 2012 election is buried in the bottom, left-hand corner of the graph. President Obama won 51.2% of the two-party popular vote this year. Now that Gov. Romney has conceded Florida, and assuming all the electors remain faithful, President Obama will receive 61.7% of the electoral vote. Both numbers are down from 2008, when Pres. Obama received 51.9% of the two-party popular vote and 64.5% of the electoral vote.

The Vanishing California Republican Party?

November 7, 2012 4 comments

Buckle up California. The state Republican Party is flirting with complete irrelevancy this election. If the current returns hold, Democrats will control 2/3 of both the State Senate and the State Assembly, giving them complete freedom in Sacramento. The one lever that the Republican Party has held in California politics–especially after Prop. 25 (2010) lowered the threshold for passing a budget to a simple majority–is that a 2/3 vote is required to raise revenue. They may not have that lever any more.

There are 40 State Senators, and 27 votes (2/3*40=26.8) are required to pass a revenue increase. The Democrats already control 14 seats, and appear to be winning 14 more. There are no close contests here. Democrats should have the 2/3 supermajority required in the State Senate.

There are 80 Assembly members, and 54 votes (2/3*80=53.6) are required to pass a revenue increase. The Democrats appear to have won 54 seats. The two closest contests are AD-65 (Anaheim), where Sharon Quirk-Silva (D) leads Chris Norby (R) by just 1,004 votes, and AD-32 (Hanford), where Rudy Salas (D) leads Pedro Rios (R) by an even more minuscule 268 votes. Expect some lawsuits over the recount here, because right now 268 votes are all that stand between Republican relevance and Republican irrelevance.

Of course, all these numbers are provisional. That said, if the results hold after the various recounts, the Republican minority won’t even need to bother to show up in Sacramento. The Democrats won’t need them to do anything.

Update [11/8 at 5:00 PM]: Both Salas and Quirk Silva still lead. Salas’s margin is still at 268 votes. Quirk-Silva’s has gone up to 1,043 (up 39).

Update [11/13 at 11:30 AM]: Salas is now way ahead, having built a 2,500 vote lead. Given the low number of votes in the district, the difference is enough to move it off the Secretary of State’s “close contest” list. Quirk-Silva’s lead is now the smallest (at least in those contests where a Democrat is facing a Republican) at a little more than 2,200 votes.

Obligatory “What Does It All Mean” Post

I don’t think the election changed much or told us anything we didn’t already know about American politics. It was pretty much a status quo election. Sorry to disappoint. Here’s some collected thoughts instead.


Evidence-based claims generally win out over faith-based claims. The poll-driven election forecast models (e.g., Pollster, 538) were right. “Vibrations” and claims that the polls just seemed wrong were not. Also, Dick Morris still doesn’t have a clue. At least he’s good for a laugh.

It’s hard to beat an incumbent president when things are getting better. Also, when the primary point of comparison is still George W. Bush.

The basic dynamics of national politics haven’t changed. It will still be hard for President Obama to get what he wants from Congress. Republican policy preferences, and the intensity with which they are held, haven’t changed.

The House Florida crazy quotient changed sides of the aisle. West lost. Grayson won.


Holding schools hostage works. Prop. 30 passed.

California voters still like to be tough on crime. Prop. 35 won and Prop. 34 lost.

Voters can read. Prop. 40 passed by a wide margin.


It’s hard to win if you are mayor when the city declares bankruptcy. Mayor Johnston lost.

That said, it’s possible to win even if you voted for the bankruptcy. Eggman won.

Basing your entire campaign on “being from here” (San Joaquin) is great so long as (1) a significant portion of the district isn’t somewhere other than “here,” (2) you aren’t running against an incumbent, and (3) the district isn’t titled toward the other party. McNerney–outspent nearly two to one–beat the upstart Gill by a healthy, seven eight-point margin (53.5-46.5 54-46). Contra Costa County, about 30% of the district, went heavily (58-42 59-41) for McNerney. San Joaquin voted 52-48 for McNerney, slightly less than it voted for President Obama.

Pundit Class Predictions

November 6, 2012 1 comment

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post rounded up all several of the pundit class predictions for the Electoral College vote. Here they are in graph form (because, as regular readers know, I loves me some graphs).

Here are the predictions of the Pacific Political Science faculty who would go on record:

  • Prof. Benedetti: 275 Obama / 260 Romney
  • Prof. O’Neill: 281 Obama / 257 Romney
  • Prof. Sample: 294 Obama / 244 Romney
  • Prof. Becker: 303 Obama / 235 Romney
  • Prof. Smith: 303 Obama / 235 Romney
  • Prof. Klunk: 323 Obama / 215 Romney

Election Day! Election Day! Elections Day!

Go vote!

Demonstrate civic virtue like others! Exercise democratic norms! Fulfill your citizenship duty! Express your policy preferences! Help the candidate or policy you think will be better for everyone to win! Help your preferred candidate or policy win!

(That’s a lot of exclamation points. Sorry.)

And, yes, voting can be a rational act.

Don’t know where to vote? Go here (for California) or just Google your address to find out where you polling place is. If you are on campus, there is a polling place in the UC Ballroom.

Finally, come hang out with us tonight in the Lair as we watch and talk about the returns. My Campaigns & Elections class will give some short presentations starting a 4:30 PM, then we’ll turn on the TV’s and watch the results come in.

Candidate Positions and District Competitiveness

November 5, 2012 6 comments

One of the recurring tropes we hear every election cycle is that district-level competition forces candidates to moderate their policy positions (i.e., move to the ideological center). The more competitive a district, the closer the candidates will be on ideological grounds. The less competitive a district, the further away from each other the candidates can be. This line of reasoning led to two recent institutional reforms in California–the Citizens Redistricting Commission and the majority runoff system of elections.

Do we see this relationship this year? Does competition breed ideological proximity? No.

The following graph plots the normalized Democratic presidential vote (NPV) in 2008 against the ideological distance between the candidates running in each House district. If competitiveness bred proximity, the red line in the graph should be u-shaped. As the district moves from safely Republican (extreme negative NPV scores) to competitive (close to zero) to safely Democratic (extreme positive NPV scores), the ideological distance should diminish then grow. Instead, the line is basically flat. The correlation coefficient for the two measures is 0.02. The OLS regression coefficient is 0.001 with a p-value of 0.649. There is no relationship between district competitiveness and the ideological positions of candidates in this graph.

The idea for this graph came from Eric McGhee’s post on the Monkey Cage. The candidate position data come from Boris Shor’s estimates. The presidential vote data come from Daily Kos.


Fun with CD-9 Registration Statistics

The California Secretary of State released the 15-day (before the election) registration statistics today. Here’s how things stack up in CD-9:

Democrats now have a 12-point registration advantage in the district.

  • On Sept. 7 (60 days before the election), Democrats only had a 10-point registration advantage (45% to 35%). On May 21, the Democrats only had an 8-point advantage (44% to 36%).
  • There are 313,105 people registered to vote in CD-9. 46% are registered as Democratic, 34% are registered as Republican, 16% are registered no party preference, and 4% are registered with a minor party.

Most of the district’s voters live in San Joaquin County.

  • 67% of the registrants live in San Joaquin. 29% live in Contra Costa County, and 4% live in Sacramento County.

Democrats won the registration battle.

  • The biggest change is in San Joaquin County, where the Democratic registration advantage has gone from 6 points (44% v. 38% on Sept. 7) to 9 points (46% v. 37% on Oct. 22).
  • Between Sept. 7 and Oct. 22, 19,557 more people registered to vote. Of those, 61% registered Democratic (11,986) compared to just 15% who registered Republican (2,863).

McNerney and Gill’s Ideological Positions

October 31, 2012 23 comments

Using publicly available data from Project Vote Smart–which itself uses publicly available candidate statements and positions–Boris Shor of the University of Chicago has created point estimates for the ideologies of all of the congressional candidates running in 2012. (You can find an explanation of the methodology as well as the full ideological distributions for each party here.)

As I have noted several times, both Jerry McNerney and Ricky Gill have made it difficult to pin their ideological positions down. McNerney is a little easier because he is a sitting member of Congress, and therefore we have voting data w e can use to figure out where he lies on the ideological spectrum. Ricky Gill, however, has intentionally dissembled at every opportunity.

In my classes and in previous posts, I have argued the it is hard to pin down McNerney because he really is a moderate. If you think about all of the Democrats in California, he is to the right of (more conservative than) almost all of them. Gill, on the other hand, is ideologically very conservative and he’s hiding [edit: downplaying] that fact in order to win election in a center-left district. In fact, by Shor’s estimates, he is to the right of the most other California Republicans. Here’s the evidence:

The 9th congressional district leans slightly Democratic. So if Gill wins–which he might–we will be replacing an someone who is center-left ideologically with someone who is on the extreme right.

Update: By Shor’s data, Gill is more conservative than 68% of all the Republican House candidates in 2012. McNerney is more liberal than just 36% of the Democratic House candidates.

Update 2: For those too lazy to click over to Shor’s site–and you really should, it’s fantastic–here’s McNerney and Gill plotted against all of the House candidates in 2012.


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