Tag Archives: 2010 vs 2012

Election Night Surprise: Why Minnesota Will Turn Red on November 6

Minnesota has crept into the news cycle recently with senior campaign surrogates stumping in the state and campaign dollars flowing to a state once thought out of reach for Republicans this cycle. I received a lot of push-back over my conclusion regarding Minnesota’s competitiveness based on Rochester, Minnesota being a top 10 ad market this week. Upon closer inspection, however, the evidence keeps piling up that the Land of 10,000 Lakes should be on everyone’s radar for an election night surprise.

The latest is a poll released yesterday from SurveyUSA gives President Obama a 10-point lead over Mitt Romney, 50 to 40.  Romney leads by 3-points among Independents 45 to 42 with 4% are voting 3rd party and 6% are Undecided.  Shouldn’t a 10-point lead definitely mean it is not a Battleground? If you believe that, you must be new to this blog.  A 10-point lead would largely be safe at this juncture if the poll were an honest representation of Minnesota today (and remember other polls have it as close as 4). But this SurveyUSA poll is far from a fair representation of the Minnesota electorate.  Before I get too deep into this flawed poll I give SurveyUSA credit for making all of the data available unlike too many other polling firms.   This allows critics to make their own judgements on what is lying beneath the top-line numbers and justify their criticism with facts and figures and not just flippant calls of bias.

Party ID

The biggest issue with the poll is the Party ID.  I understand polling firm do not weight their polls by party ID, but when they re-weight their polls based on age, race, etc and the outcome of respondents is a party ID disparity that defies all logic and reason, that means something is deeply wrong with the sample group they gleaned their answers from.   This poll specifically has a disgraceful disparity between Democrats and Republicans surveyed. The Party ID is D +10 (Dem 37, Rep 27, Ind 30).  This compares to 2008 of D +4 (Dem 40, Rep 36, Ind 25) and 2004 of D + 3 (Dem 38, Rep 35, Ind 27).  First and foremost we see a Democrat advantage in the sampling 2.5x greater than that the 2008 peak of hopey-changey.  This is ludicrous for many of the enthusiasm reasons often cited:

Basically, for the above reasons there is a dramatically increased probability Republicans will vote with greater propensity in 2012 than they did in 2008 while the inverse is true for Democrats.  But that is only one of the reasons this poll and party ID are ludicrous.

The Changing Minnesota

Minnesota is no ordinary state politically. The most important thing to know about Minnesota is the state is rapidly changing in favor of Republicans and has been for years.  Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics did the seminal work in this regard. His state-by-state analysis of voting trends shows that over the last 8 elections the performance of Republican candidates in Minnesota has steadily gotten closer to the candidate’s national performance. That is, when a Republican Presidential candidate got 50.1% of the vote in 1980, you could expect them to get 43% in Minnesota.  In 2008, the under-performance versus the national shrunk to 1%, meaning had John McCain received 51% of the national vote, he could have expected to get 50% of the vote in Minnesota.

If we apply only the most superficial analysis of Minnesota today and we see Mitt Romney leading  in the national average by only a few points, let alone as much as 7-points, it would seem more than likely he would carry Minnesota based solely that lead and the 30-year trend in Republicans favor shown above.

Party ID Recent History

This brings me back to the Party ID issue. In 2008 Minnesota’s political affiliation change was unlike most of America. Between 2004 and 2008 we saw Battleground States experience wide swings in their party ID as citizens bought into the magnetic story of Barack Obama.  States like Ohio saw its Party ID swing 13-points in favor of Democrats; Nevada swung 12-points in favor of Democrats; North Carolina swung 12-points in favor of Democrats; Virginia swung 10-points; New Hampshire 9-points; and on and on all towards the Democrats.  Minnesota’s party affiliation, however, only swung 1-point towards the Democrats.  This was smaller than every party affiliation move among even the most remote of contested state.  This lack of change during the Democrat tidal wave of 2008 is a major component of hidden Republican strength demonstrated in the chart above.  Minnesota is, and has been, a state trending steadily Republican even in the face of the incredible Democrat wave seen in 2008.

Republicans have surged in local politics

But more than just a macro statistical argument, Republicans have made dramatic strides at the ballot box. Over the last four years Minnesota caught the 2010 midterm wave for the GOP and flipped both houses of its state legislature, and in dramatic fashion:

  • Republicans gained a State Senate majority of 55/45 which was a dramatic shift from the 31/69 disparity previously (based on percentages not actual seats)
  • Republicans also gained a State House e majority of 54/46 which was also a dramatic shift from the 35/65 split previously (based on percentages not actual seats)
  • At the Federal level, Republicans picked up one seat balancing out the Congressional delegation at 4 for each party

Despite all of these substantial moves in favor of the Republican party, polls like SurveyUSA’s D +10 turnout still show up and is the basis for people to argue Minnesota is out of reach this election.

But what if Minnesota is not D +10 or anywhere near that?

Below I breakdown the exact same SurveyUSA poll.  First, as they have it with D +10.  Second with the 2008 party ID of D +4 and then prospectively with an even party breakdown for all of the reasons outlined above.  I use with the same number of Independents for the 2012 estimate that SurveyUSA found in their poll although I suspect Independents will be even higher on election day. Pollsters, campaigns, or individuals can make their own assumptions, these are just mine.

This following needs to be clear up front:

  • Party ID does not equal 100% in the SurveyUSA poll so I make Other 6%. Also, the “Other” category in the survey was unusually high at 6% but instead of eliminating that I shaved 3% from the two major parties for 2008 and 2012 est. Also the Other voters overwhelmingly supported 3rd party candidates in the poll so their impact on this analysis is small.
  • The vote total also does not equal 100% because of Undecideds which are also 6%. Due to space constraints I put Undecideds and Other on the same line which can look, when reading from left-to-right, like there are 106% of voters.  But this is not Cook County, it is just labeled that way so you know where the numbers come from.  “Other” turns out to be +1% for each candidate and Undecideds are expected to break at least 2/3 for the challenger which is +2 for Obama and +4 for Romney. Note: adding in Undecideds to the SurveyUSA poll gives the candidates final totals of Obama 52 and Romney 44.

Calculating the vote

  • The vote totals are calculated through the following formula: (Rep Party ID x Rep Party support %) + (Dem Party ID x Dem Party support %) + (Ind Party ID x Ind Party support %) + (Other Party ID x Other Party support %) + (Undecided x Expected %) = vote total
  • For example, with  President Obama in the SurveyUSA Party ID section this breaks down as (27 x .06) + (37 x .93) + (30 x .42) + (6 x .17) + (6 x .33) = 51.7 or 52

Scenario 1: Survey USA Party ID 27 37 30 6 [6] Vote Total
Republicans % Democrats % Independents % Other % Undecided %
Obama 6 93 42 17 33  51.7
Romney 89 4 45 17 66  44.0
Scenario 2: 2008 Party ID 33 37 25 6 [6]
Republicans % Democrats % Independents %  Other % Undecided %
Obama 6 93 42 17 33  49.9
Romney 89 4 45 17 66  47.1
Scenario 3: 2012 Party ID est. 32 32 30 6  [6]
Republicans % Democrats % Independents % Other %  Undecided %
Obama 6 93 42 17 33 47.3
Romney 89 4 45 17 66 48.2

Our three scenarios produce the following results:

  • Party ID  D +10: Obama wins by 8
  • Party ID D +4: Obama wins by 3
  • Party ID even: Romney wins by 1

The point of running these scenarios is the initial read of an Obama 10-point lead based on a D +10 party affiliation is folly. With Undecideds factored in that lead drop to 8 even in this unrealistic scenario. If there is no party affiliation shift from 2008 despite the overwhelming evidence provided, Romney is only down 2.8 points with an unconsolidated base (think a visit might help?) as well as conservative estimates on Undecideds.  If, however, Republicans have burnished their brand and the enthusiasm issue is as meaningful as polling would indicate, the decades-long steady rise in Republican performance in Minnesota should deliver a victory for Romney on November 6.  Enhancing every one of these scenarios is the prospect of a decided national popular vote victory for Romney evidenced by the national tracking polls from Gallup and Rasmussen Reports. If that happens, deep purple Minnesota will turn red on election night.

Battleground Counties: Prince William County, Virginia

Prince William County, Virginia was a county mentioned in the very first post that inspired the whole Battleground Counties series but I never had a chance to profile this enormously important county in one of the two key Battleground States this election. If one candidate wins both Virginia and Ohio, they almost certainly win the election and whoever wins Prince William County likely wins Virginia so a lot rides on this burgeoning exurb. Just further west of voter-rich Fairfax County, Prince William only two decades ago would have been considered rural, but between the dramatic expansion of federal workers in Northern Virginia and a solid technology sector in this region, Prince William County has gone from horse pastures to McMansions in short order.  This is an area where the obscure sequestration debate resonates loudly –a quarter of its residents commute over an hour to get to work, most all for federal jobs impacted by the cuts. The county’s election impact is undeniable. Between 2004 and 2008 both the population and voter turnout for the major party candidates increased dramatically, from 131, 047 to 161,056 a 23% increase.  To put this is perspective, George Bush won the County in 2004  by 6% with a total of 69,776 votes.  In 2008 John McCain garnered 67,621 votes (enough to beat John Kerry by 6k votes) but still lost by 16% (25.8k votes) to President Obama. This is a changing and increasingly valuable exurb. Local writers at InsideNoVa.com drill down on their once sleepy but now hopping home county:

In June 2008, Democrat Barack Obama kicked off his general election campaign at the Nissan Pavilion in western Prince William County. Five months later, he closed his presidential campaign with an election-eve rally that drew about 85,000 people to the Prince William County Fairgrounds. This Friday, Obama returns to the area, holding a re-election rally in Manassas, where GOP nominee Mitt Romney campaigned Aug. 11 with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. Prince William, a booming Northern Virginia exurb of 413,000 residents, is home to some of Virginia’s most prominent conservatives, including Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. Yet Obama carried Prince William by 25,000 votes in 2008, becoming the first Democratic nominee to win the county — and the state — in 44 years. The political cross-currents that made that possible — affluence, diversity, cul-de-sacs sprouting where there were once country fields — make Virginia’s second-largest county a key battleground in this pivotal swing state. “If you win Fairfax County and Prince William you’re almost guaranteed to tilt the state,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th. As for Romney, “He’s got to take Prince William,” says Connolly’s predecessor, Republican Thomas M. Davis III. “He doesn’t need it by a lot, but he needs to carry Prince William.”

Democrat beachhead in Northern Virginia

For decades, Prince William and Loudoun County, its neighbor to the north, were outside-the-Beltway behemoths that gave Republicans something of a firewall in presidential elections. In 2008, that firewall collapsed. Obama swept all of Northern Virginia, winning Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park. Collectively, Obama won Northern Virginia by 234,079 votes. In the rest of the state combined, he edged Republican John McCain by 448 votes. If Republicans hope to retake Virginia at the presidential level, they will have to chip away at Obama’s dominance in the state’s population centers such as Loudoun and Prince William, the fastest-growing localities in the state.

GOP opportunity

If Republicans hope to retake Virginia at the presidential level, they will have to chip away at Obama’s dominance in the state’s population centers such as Loudoun and Prince William, the fastest-growing localities in the state. Virginia Republicans say this election comes in a different climate from 2008. They say they have enthusiasm on their side and much better statewide organization than four years ago. Marshall said that “the present economic difficulties may turn some Democrats into Republican voters or more likely presidential no-shows and congressional-voters only, because whichever party is in power usually is blamed for the state of the economy.” Davis said Republicans “will do considerably better in what we call ROVA — the rest of Virginia,” than in 2008, but “they need to cut those margins down in NOVA. You certainly can’t make up 230,000 votes in the rest of the state.” That is a challenge because Northern Virginia “is culturally to the left of the Republican Party and we’re losing it on culture,” Davis said.

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New Hampshire in Focus

Robert Costa, who has written some of the best work on potential Vice President Rob Portman, takes a look at the 4 electoral votes that could swing the election in New Hampshire:

Four years ago, President Obama easily won the Granite State, but after major Republican gains in 2010, Romney’s campaign is optimistic about its chances in New England’s flinty, independent neighborhood. Over the past few months, they have opened multiple offices and call centers across the state.  Romney’s participation in the past two New Hampshire primary elections has given him a large, sprawling base of support and a network of top-flight political operatives, such as Jim Merill. Twelve years ago, Merrill managed George W. Bush’s successful New Hampshire general-election campaign.

Tom Rath, a Romney adviser and a former New Hampshire attorney general, thinks Romney’s fiscal conservatism and suburban appeal will play as well this year as it did for Bush more than a decade ago. “Romney’s temperament and views make him the kind of Republican who wins here,” Rath says. Bush’s 2000 victory, however, was narrow, as was Democrat John Kerry’s New Hampshire win in 2004. Veteran Republican consultants expect the Obama–Romney race to resemble those two tight contests more than Obama’s 2008 sweep, when the Illinois Democrat won all ten counties.

Current state of affairs

In the polls, Romney has recently closed the gap. The latest New Hampshire poll, published by WMUR, shows Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 45 percent; but back in WMUR’s April poll, the president led Romney by nine percentage points. Obama’s approval rating in the poll was below 50 percent, a sign of vulnerability. Romney’s competitive standing does not surprise Democrats, who have been organizing in New Hampshire for more than a year, and the Obama campaign has opened 14 field offices. Vice President Joe Biden has made high-profile visits, and President Obama stopped by Durham, N.H., in late June.

2010 vs 2012

Two years ago, New Hampshire Republicans won a Senate seat, both of the state’s two congressional seats, record majorities in the state house and state senate, and complete control of the state’s influential executive council. Coupled with Romney’s ground game, the Republican political machine is strong and ready to kick into gear. Romney’s team is focused on generating big Republican turnout in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, two well-populated areas in the south, and traditional GOP pockets near the coast.

New Hampshire microcosm

As with its national strategy, Romney’s state campaign is underscoring the candidate’s economic message in its outreach and mailings. New Hampshire may have a 5.1 percent unemployment rate, Romney aides say, but it is still a state in transition, moving away from its heavy-industry past. In the final stretch, the Romney campaign will make a hard pitch to “undeclared” voters, who are approximately 40 percent of the state’s electorate. From Bush’s 2000 win to Bill Clinton’s razor-thin victory in 1992, these voters decide elections and whether a campaign snags 270 electoral votes. “This feels a lot like 2004, when a guy from Massachusetts was able to win 51–49,” says James Pindell, WMUR’s political director. “Romney’s not a true favorite son, but he’s insulated from many of the national attacks because people have really gotten to know his record over the past several years.”