Tag Archives: Ralston

Does This Mean I’ve Made It? The Jon Ralston Edition

Jon Ralston was on one of his often hyper-partisan twitter rants insulting Republicans calling them hacks for complaining over voter fraud as if it doesn’t exits.

Ralston’s tweet:

Jon Ralston ‏@RalstonReports   I can’t believe that’s even a story about “swirling speculations” of voter fraud. Swirling speculations by GOP hacks only. Zero evidence.

So I decided to remind him what an ass he was being:

To argue my case for me Ralston sends me the following private message and blocks me on Twitter:

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Something tells me he’s more than a bit temperamental because the lies he told at the beginning of early voting are coming back to haunt him and Nevada may not be as safe as he relentlessly professed.

Did Democrats Massacre Republicans on First Day of Early Voting in Nevada? Maybe Not

Update: An earlier version of this post contained erroneous data.  The corrected version is below.

Nevada had its first returns of early voting posted last night and the headline numbers looked very good for Democrats.  Here was the headline and post from Nevada expert Jon Ralston:

Democrats massacre Republicans on first day of early voting in urban areas

The numbers show a 26 percent edge in Clark County and 10 percent in Washoe County. That’s about a 10,000-vote lead in Washoe and Clark combined.
The Clark numbers: 55-29, or 18,388-9,588 (Actual registration: 46-31)
The Washoe numbers: 48-38, or 4,604-3,619 (Actual registration: 38-38)
Yes, it’s only one day. But if it continues like this, Nov. 6 is going to be a very bleak day for Republicans in this state.

I’m not the biggest fan of reading too much into early voting especially on only one day’s data. There is an inherent uncertainty in what the submissions actually mean (how many voters crossed over parties with their vote?) and the sample sizes are really small.  This makes drawing conclusions not much better than just plain old guess work until a critical mass of votes have accumulated. But a lot was missing from Ralston’s report that tells a very different story, namely a comparison with 2008. It is impressive to have a 10,000 vote lead on day 1 of early voting in a state won by 121k votes in 2008. And Clark County is the motherload of votes in Nevada accounting for 67% of the state’s votes between the two major candidates in 2008.   Barack Obama won Clark County by 124k votes, accounting for his entire margin of victory.  So it would be very instructive to see what Clark County looked like in 2008.  Our commenter Paul provided the daily vote total for Clark in the last election:

The Democrats started with a large lead and steadily built on that lead throughout the early voting achieving an aggregate advantage over Republicans by election day of 86,607, approximately 70% of their final margin.

What is harder to see is that Republicans steadily closed the gap with Democrats throughout the early voting days before nearly catching the Democrats on the final day.  On day 1 their vote total was 37% of the Democrats vote and by the final day their vote was 89% of the Democrats vote:

10/18/2008 10/19/2008 10/20/2008 10/21/2008 10/22/2008 10/23/2008 10/24/2008 10/25/2008 10/26/2008 10/27/2008 10/28/2008 10/29/2008 10/30/2008 10/31/2008
Rep % of Dem Vote 37% 45% 56% 51% 54% 56% 61% 59% 58% 68% 69% 72% 68% 68%

The rate of change over those days was a 2.4% increase on average in favor of the Republicans closing the gap with Democrats but unfortunately they were starting from a very low base (37%…yuk).

Day 1 of 2012 was very different despite the misleading reports like Ralston’s above.  It is true that Democrats enjoyed a whopping 55 to 29% lead among ballots returned or voted on Day 1 — a 26 percentage point (pp) margin.  But in 2008 the Democrats enjoyed a 62 to 23 advantage — a 39pp margin.  So the GOP is outperforming by 13 points.  Extrapolating from one day’s data is inherently risky and unreliable but the inferences Ralston is drawing are completely without merit. For fun we are going to construct a 2012 early voting turnout based on the first day’s data and restricting ourselves to the trends in the 2008 results.

In 2008 looking at every day subsequent to the first, the Democrat turnout averages 15,224. With Democrat turnout in the subsequent days averaging 97% of the day 1 result we insert that as a constant going into election day. We then take the Republican turnout and increase it at a rate of 2.4% every day, consistent with the 2008 results.

The final aggregate lead for Democrats is 81,786, nearly 5000 below the 86,607 lead in 2008. This is again with conservative assumptions using the 2008 GOP ground game which was nothing like today’s operation. Obama won Nevada by 121k and based on these assumptions Republicans would eat into that lead by 5k votes, a 4% reduction. That’s not an enormous amount on Day 1 but it is marked improvement for a state party that has struggled over the last few years.  Obviously Team Nevada, the Romney campaign and Senator Heller’s campaign deserve the credit for the improvement but the main point is this was by no means a massacre as reported.

Based on the 2.4% rate of change we see by the Friday before the elections, Republicans would nearly catch up to the Democrats vote total on the Friday before the election, substantially better than their 65-70% average in the final days of 2008.  The key here, again, is minding the gap.

The rest of the state trends heavily Republican with the exception of Washoe County which is a battleground County that President Obama carried in 2008.  The Republican gains in Clark County are even more pronounced in Washoe County where Republicans reduced a 34pp gap in 2008 into a 10pp gap. Republicans increase in turnout in that County was 3x the increase of Democrats on Day 1. Yesterday was no reason for either party to pop bottles of champagne or even start putting it on ice.  The aggregate turnout numbers show both parties are very active on the ground this year achieving a 32% increase in overall turnout. The Democrats are enjoying their typical early vote advantage but a great change is happening this year as it appears Republicans are more than up to the challenge of “minding the gap” even in Democrat bastion Clark County.

Beware Nevada Polls

It is wonderful to see that Mitt Romney has broken through in some Nevada polls and taken a lead in the Silver State.  This was a state with many of the trappings that were supposed to fell President Obama this year but through a number of missteps the state’s six electoral votes have stubbornly stayed in the hands of Democrats. Following the first Presidential debate drubbing, however, Nevada like the other Battlegrounds has witnessed a surge in support for Romney.  It is still exceedingly close and there aren’t that many polls putting Romney in the lead but regardless of the circumstances you need to start leading in a few polls if you are going to honestly continue to argue the race is competitive.

Nevada however has its own issues that make polling erratic in the state.  An overwhelming number of votes come from one region (Las Vegas/Clark County) and the rest of the state spreads far and wide with sparsely populated voters making it difficult to poll.  The expert on this state is Jon Ralston, formerly of the Las Vegas Journal-Review and now launching his own subscription based Ralston Reports.  He has an exceptional essay (teasing his subscription service, of course) regarding the weaknesses in Nevada polls and how they often over-state Republican support — a great change from what we see elsewhere.You can disagree with his politics — he claims an Independent streak although he’s really a big ol’ Lefty — but you disagree with his analysis of Nevada at your own peril.  he is consistently the smartest and most honest political reporter in Nevada who regularly brings the best analysis no matter whose side the is in the lead.

A few words about all of these polls on the presidential race in Nevada: Don’t believe them.

Yes, I was telling you the same thing two years ago when every poll (almost) showed Sharron Angle would be the next U.S. senator from Nevada. That didn’t happen, and all of those polls were wrong for different reasons, which eventually comes down to the same reason: [T]he best pollsters – this is the key – know how to weight the results to fit the picture that will exist on Election Day – that is, what the turnout actually will look like.

The reason Harry Reid’s pollster, Mark Mellman, nailed the result in 2010 was that he correctly forecast what the demographics of the turnout would look like – how many Hispanics, how much Clark County would be of the total, the difference between GOP and Democratic turnout. And the better pollsters know how to change their models as the campaign evolves, to adjust for whatever atmospherics require some adjustment. [The problem with today’s polls is they] do not take into account either the surge in Democratic registration or recent history – i.e. the last two cycles.

Nevada today

The Democratic wave of 2008 is unlikely to be duplicated here four years later, with a devastated economy. It is possible that Democratic turnout will be depressed compared to the previous two cycles, which could dramatically change the result. But what Democrats here know – as do good pollsters – is that Republicans traditionally turn out in greater numbers than Democrats —  anywhere from 4 to 6 percent. So you have to adjust your numbers for that fact as well as the registration changes. And the greater the registration advantage the Democrats have, the less the GOP turnout edge affects the share of the vote the Democrats will have in the end.

[H]istory indicates just how much trouble the GOP could be in here — from president on down — if historical turnout trends hold. [M]y bottom line for now is: Remember 2010. Nearly every poll you saw showed that Angle was going to win — as did Angle’s internals. And she lost by nearly 6 points. Six points!

Voter Registration

The raw numbers this cycle are very similar in Clark County to what they were in 2008 — about a 125,000-voter lead (it actually is going to be slightly larger this time.) The way it works is that the South makes up 70 percent of the vote, and if you don’t take that into account in your poll, you won’t show the kind of raw number lead that Democratic statewide candidates are likely to have (Obama’s will be greater than Rep. Shelley Berkley’s) that make Republican candidates chances less and less real. Despite what all of those polls say, Romney’s path to victory in Nevada now is much more problematic than any Republican will acknowledge.


In 2008, when Democrats had that 125,000-voter edge, Obama won Clark County by more than 122,000 votes, or 19 percent. John McCain never had a chance after that and lost by 12 points. The edge is similar four years later, and while Mitt Romney has contested the state in a way McCain did not, the math isn’t much different. Unless the Democrats turn out in record low numbers relative to Republicans, Romney cannot win unless independents overwhelmingly go for him. And none of those polls show that (indeed, even GOP-leaning Rasmussen shows Obama winning indies by 10).

Who’s winning?

Any pollster who takes into account all of those factors would come out with a survey showing the president up by a half-dozen points or so. Any poll that doesn’t has a turnout model that either doesn’t make sense, is partisan-biased or is simply garbage.

Nevada Voter Registration Update

We got an update from Nevada expert Jon Ralston.  The final numbers are just coming in and Democrats made a furious comeback, especially in all important Clark County, to push back on the gains the GOP made this cycle in Nevada.  Despite that comeback the GOP closed the gap on the 2008 advantage:

This is still a good showing for the GOP since Democrats had a 100k voter registration advantage overall in 2008 and statewide the Republican Party had more than a few internal issues to overcome this cycle.  Great effort in the Silver State.

Obama +2 in Nevada — Rasmussen

Nevada has a tough landscape for both candidates to gain any sustainable traction but the Obama campaign sees some sunshine in the Silver State according to the latest from Rasmussen Reports. Important caveat, Jon Ralston who is a big ol’ Lefty but also the best at all things political Nevada, is taking issue with the internals of Rasmussen’s survey (not in favor of Romney) — doubt him at your own peril (just ask Senator Sharron Angle) :

President Obama now leads Mitt Romney by just two points in the increasingly close presidential race in Nevada. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Nevada shows the president drawing 47% of the vote to Romney’s 45%. Four percent (4%) prefer some other candidate, and three percent (3%) are undecided. The survey of 500 Likely Voters in Nevada was conducted on September 18, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points.

For President Percent
Barack Obama 47
Mitt Romney 45
Other 4
Undecided 3

UPDATE: I stand corrected. In my haste scanning my twitter feed, Ralston has more of an issue with Rasmussen sampling too much from DEMOCRAT demographic groups. Granted it is only 1% too much from each but it was too much weighting to African-Americans at 11% (vs 10% in 2008) and high on women/men at 53%/47% versus 52%/48%. In tight races these those % matter but I think Ralston’s being a bit dubious questioning Rasmussen for these samples.

Nevada GOP: The Ugly, the Bad and the Good

We have previously covered the disaster that is the state GOP in Nevada due to its overrun by Ron Paul acolytes. Thankfully there is its far more competent and reliable splinter group: Team Nevada. Jon Ralston in the Las Vegas Sun breaks down the on-the-ground problems for the GOP in his latest column:

End of Nevada GOP as we know it, money edition:

The Democrats have raised more than $2 million this year for their federal PAC, mostly ($1.7 million) from transfers from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that have been poured into a field operation that worked so well in 2008 for the president and 2010 for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Democrats have about $653,000 cash on hand. The state GOP has raised about $188,000 and has $167,000 on hand, with only $41,000 from the national committees.

$1.7 million to $41,000. Those numbers don’t lie. Caveat: Team Nevada (not the state GOP) will get nearly all of the national committee money.

End of GOP as we know it, base-problem edition:

Nevada is unique in that its ballots have a “none of the above” option. The GOP fears that this protest vote option could hurt Romney because the anti-Obama sentiment is strong but the reflexive pro-Romney default option is weak.  With Nevada’s “none of the above” above options, many Romney votes may be lost with this protest vote option on the ballot.  As such, the Republican National Committee has joined a lawsuit to get this option removed from the ballot. Add in former New Mexico Gary Johnson on the ballot as the Libertarian candidate and the GOP may have a real problem in a squeaker election. This has foiled the GOP before. In 1998, future Senator John Ensign lost to present Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by 428 votes. The Libertarian candidate, Michael Cloud, received 8,044 votes and “None of these candidates” took 8,125.

End of Nevada GOP as we know it, silver lining edition:

In recent election cycles the quality of Democratic operatives has been far superior to the Republican talent. But for the first time in memory, the GOP has a team that is worthy of being on the same playing field. Team Nevada, however, is stocked with experienced state officials. The RNC’s Darren Littel and Kristin Vieira both have plenty of state experience; Sen. Dean Heller’s chief of staff, Mac Abrams has plenty of major campaign expertise; Chris Carr, a former Nevada GOP staffer turned RNC operative and on the ground here; lesser-known folks such as Ryan Cherry, a Heller veteran, and Joe Catania, a field guy for Nevada candidates and now with Team Nevada; and skilled campaign types such as Mike Slanker (Heller), Ryan Erwin (Rep. Joe Heck) and microtargeter Billy Rogers helping GOP state Senate candidates, who could help turn out base voters. Add in a Hispanic outreach effort – hey, guys, maybe we should talk to Latinos this year! – that has money and bodies and a full integration of all these working parts and this Republican Party – that is, Team Nevada – can compete with the Democratic machine.

The GOP is not a shadow of its former self [but] the shadow is better than its former self.

Beware Funny #s: Ralston Dismantles Nevada “Dead Heat” Poll

The dean of Nevada politics, and solid lefty, Jon Ralston opens up his column with a little chest thumping over his prescient 2010 call for Harry Reid to win his improbable Senate re-election. Normally this would be a bit unseemly, but Ralston’s call for Reid was consistent from start to finish and his analysis, in the face of mountains of contrary opinions, proved to be spot on. In his column deconstructing the recent NBC-Marist poll showing Obama up 2 but within the margin for error, he importantly identifies who and what gave him such successful insights into the Reid race:

[M]any polls erroneously created the impression that Angle was likely to defeat Reid. But there were problems with almost every one of those surveys, easily discovered by exploring the internals. And Reid’s pollster, Mark Mellman, turned out to have the only consistently correct numbers for one reason: His model of what the turnout was going to look like most closely approximated what it actually was.

The is the Rosetta stone for every poll and pollster.  Getting the party ID and turnout to most accurately reflect who will actually show up in the voting booth determines everything about the validity of any poll.  This is often as much art as science, but reputable pollsters get this more consistently right than wrong which is why I take great umbrage when Battleground state polling forecasts 2012 turnout to be a similarly Democrat year as 2008 (the D +8 spread we’ve seen multiple times) — no one thinks Democrats will be able to repeat such an advantage.  And Ralston was all over this in 2010 while GOP operatives fine tuned their Reid obituaries.

So the chest thumping is both warranted and a helpful reminder as Ralston digs into the recent NBC-Marist poll on Nevada:

[B]eing a poll junkie, I dived (sic) into the crosstabs, which can tell you something about the survey’s validity and also set the contours that will help determine the outcomes in November. The NBC/Marist poll makes some assumptions that might be instructive for November, but also might skew the current results. [T]he survey highlights the key factors that will determine the outcomes for the top-of-the-ticket races:

• Regional turnout: Nevada is three states – Southern, Northern and Rural. The greater the percentage of the vote in Clark County, the better for Democrats, who have a huge registration edge. The NBC/Marist poll turnout model indicates Clark County will make up 72 percent of the vote in November. That’s high by about 5 percentage points based on the past two elections, which shortchanges super-conservative rural Nevada by almost that much.

This reveals 3 things: the oversampling of the heavily Democrat region greatly increases Romney’s chances for victory in a normalized turnout. If Obama is able to achieve this level of Clark County mobilization (Ralston doubts it), he’ll likely win the state. But maybe most importantly, in this heavily Democrat region, Obama only leads by 5 points. This would spell doom for Obama in November according to Ralston.

• Hispanic turnout: The NBC/Marist poll has Hispanics as 19 percent of the electorate, which is something that has never happened in the state’s history. The highest was the past two cycles, in which 15 percent of voters were Latinos.

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