Sunday, October 31, 2010

Latest House and Senate Updates, What You Need to Know About Governor's Races

Projection Totals
Senate: 51 Democratic Caucus (49 Dems, 2 Ind), 49 Republican Caucus (48 Reps, 1 Ind)
House: 231 Republicans, 204 Democrats

A lot of new polls since Thursday, but absolutely no rating changes in any of the Senate races. Of note...Washington seems to be getting even closer, which may be a very important race the way this is shaping up. Basically, to win control of the Senate, the GOP needs to hold all the seats that I have in their column ("leans" included) and take both West Virginia and Washington. In my approximation, this still makes Washington approximately "Seat #51".

In the House, we have tightened ever-so-slightly, but the GOP is still projected to win back the House by a wide majority. It's hard to imagine a scenario where they hold on to the House, although stranger things have happened.

The State Houses
I have not been keeping a statistical projection of all the Governor's races in the country as this site mostly focuses on national politics, but they bear a mention as the parties in power after this election will have significant control of the redistricting process after the 2010 census results are released at the end of the year. Every state (except for the ones with only 1 House seat) will be drawing new districts and control of the legislature and the Governor's mansion means the ability to gerrymander for your party.

Here is the landscape for Governor's races:
There are several states that do not have Governor's races this year. New Jersey and Virginia have "odd-year" governor's races, which the GOP won last year. Several other states have even-year elections that match the Presidential calendar. These are:
Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Arkansas has sort of an odd system where the Governor is on 2-year terms, so the race is up this year and in 2012.

All of the rest are up for 4 year terms this time.

The Democrats have 7 seats not up for re-election and 3 that are not particularly competitive.
The GOP have 6 seats not up and 14 that are not particularly competitive.

This leaves 20 basically locked in for the GOP and 10 for the DEMs.

Of the remaining seats, here is how they break down:
Dems Lead: California, Colorado, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota
Polls Split/Very Close: Connecticut, Florida, Oregon, Vermont
GOP Leads: Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin
Independent Leads: Rhode Island

Of the 4 very close races, here are my current statistical projections:
Connecticut: Malloy (D) +2.6%
Florida: Scott (R) +1.2%
Oregon: Dudley (R) +0.8%
Vermont: Shamlin (D) +3.2%

So at this point, I project:
US Governors: 31 Republicans, 18 Democrats, 1 Independent
It isn't quite as bad as it looks for the Democrats, since they will control some very big states with a lot of congressional seats, including New York, likely California and still possibly Florida (although they trail in my numbers narrowly there.) Still, this gives the GOP 30-some Presidential candidates in 2012 and a lot of clout in the states.

Tomorrow I will do my final projections and a full run down / watching guide to the mid-terms. I will be live-blogging on Tuesday after the polls start to close.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Want Lower Government Spending? Try a Republican Congress and a Democratic President

If you read my earlier post that looked at GDP growth relative to party control of Congress and the Presidency from last week, you will see that the statistics were fairly inconclusive. The economy tended to grow more strongly when a Democrat controlled the Presidency, but the correlation with divided or unified government was not significant.

This post, I thought I would look at the level of government spending relative to party control.

Let me lead in by saying a few things.

Firstly, many of the same limitations that I discussed in my earlier post apply to this analysis as well. It is impossible to control for evolving and varied ideologies of the parties over time and it is also difficult to control for the effects that economic and geopolitical conditions have on spending (wars cost money, recessions drive up the cost of the social safety net, etc.)

Secondly, I wanted to explain my choice of metric. I used change in government spending as a percentage of GDP. The choice to use change in spend rather than absolute spending levels is a judgement call, but one that I believe is most accurate. Government doesn't spin on a dime, so I believe change in spending is more indicative of the impact of political leaders than the absolute number.

Thirdly, I'm not trying to argue in this post whether higher or lower government spending is preferred. Was adding Medicare a good thing or a bad thing? How about the war in Iraq? Should we have added the Department of Homeland Security? These are all individual issues that we could debate at length. The point is, this analysis seeks only to establish correlations, not to conclude whether they are good or bad.

Conclusions by Party in Power:
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) for Democrats: +0.00%/year
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) for Republicans: +0.16%/year

Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) for Democrats: +0.05%/year
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) for Republicans: +0.22%/year

Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) for Democrats: +0.08%/year
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) for Republicans: +0.17%/year

Viewed individually, in every body, Republicans in power leads to more spending than Democrats in power. You can also see (no surprise), that the trend overall is up across time.

But what about the interaction of unified versus divided government? Here is where the statistic become very clear:
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) -- Democrat President, Congress All or Partially Republican: -0.47%/year
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) -- Republican President, Congress All or Partially Democratic: +0.02%/year
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) -- Unified Democratic Government: +0.18%/year
Average spending growth (as a percentage of GDP) -- Unified Republican Government: +0.65%/year

Average all divided governments: -0.07%/year
Average all unified governments: +0.34%/year

We see a massive effect here. Divided governments produce lower government spending, unified ones produce higher spending. The effect is significant and meaningful.

* Democratic Presidents, in general, increase spending at a far lower rate than Republican Presidents
* Regardless of who is President, spending is significantly lower with at least partial control of Congress by the other party
* Of all scenarios, a Republican Congress and a Democratic President produces the lowest spending result.
* The highest spending scenario, by far, is a unified Republican government.
* Interestingly enough, only 16% of the total change in spending is explained by these effects. This speaks to the continued impact of macroeconomics and evolving philosophies.

It's fascinating, because a lot of this flies in the face of conventional wisdom about party governing philosophies.

If you are a fan of lower government spending, you should be encouraged, since we will almost certainly see a next two years of a Democratic President and a congress that is at least partially Republican congress.

I may pick this topic up to do similar analysis on things like taxes and deficit. But between now and Tuesday, this space will be solely dedicated to looking at the mid-term elections.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are the Dems Rallying Late?, Some Perspective on November 3rd

Projection Totals
Senate: 51 Democratic Caucus (49 Dems, 2 Ind), 49 Republican Caucus (48 Reps, 1 Ind)
House: 233 Republicans, 202 Democrats

The full court push is officially on. President Obama did the Daily Show, President Clinton is out hard on the campaign trail and both sides are spending ad money at a rate that makes us all want to TiVo programs rather than watch them live. But are the numbers moving at all?

Maybe a little in the final days. Don't get me wrong, the GOP is going to make huge gains, no question about it. And a lot of the races are starting to cement and clarify. But where there is movement late, at least on the Senate side, it seems to be modestly pro-Democrat.

We are probably down to about 7 races where the outcome is truly in doubt. It's tough to close a 5 point gap in less than a week, barring a big surprise and it's rare that my projections are off by 5%.

So let's run those down:
Alaska -- I don't know what the heck is going to happen in this race. The newest poll, from the Hay Research Group, vaults incumbent Republican running as a write-in Lisa Murkowski into the lead, with Joe Miller plummeting all the way to third place. This leaves us with three completely viable outcomes: #1 That Murkowski does in fact win via write-in, #2 That Miller picks up the Murkowski voters who don't want to bother with the write-in or forget when they get to the polls or #3 That the Dems eke one out in a three-way race, in the same manner as they stole a New York Congressional special election last year. I view #3 as a real possibility for the first time this year, which would be a disaster for GOP hopes in the Senate and would leave me laughing about the Tea Party and its influence on the GOP.

West Virginia -- apparently shooting cap and trade is working in coal country as conservative Democrat Manchin vaults back into a narrow lead. This one is still too close to call, but definitely trending blue.

Washington -- this one has seesawed a lot, but appears to be trending red at the moment. Murray is holding on barely, but Dino Rossi is nipping at her heels.

Colorado -- this race seemed almost dead to the Dems but has become close again. Hard not to still have the GOP favored, as Buck has had a lead for months, but if there is a blue surge late, this is one that is ripe for the taking.

Illinois -- this race has consistently stayed close. The GOP was wise to nominate a true moderate in this race in Mark Kirk. It's not 100% over, but this one may be out of reach for the Dems.

Nevada -- will a fringe candidate like Sharron Angle really unseat Harry Reid in purple Nevada? It appears so at the moment. Frankly a case of two horrible candidates and the voters picking the lesser evil. Angle's lead has stabilized and Reid will have to find a bag of tricks late to pull this one out.

Pennsylvania -- Sestak had been surging for about a week but that appears to have abated and Toomey is reestablishing his lead. Funny how the guy who couldn't beat Arlen Specter in a primary may beat the guy who did.

What Happens on November 3rd?
One thing I know is that the Presidential race unofficially starts right after this election. Think I'm jumping the gun? We'll be about 14 months from the first primary. The GOP candidates will need to start lining up donors and support now or they will start to drop off. Expect Palin, Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich and company to start gearing up big time. Also expect a tough ride in Washington with an almost certainly divided government AND a Presidential campaign starting. You think the rhetoric is tough now? You haven't seen anything yet. Of course, my coverage of the 2012 election will begin next week as well, sizing up the electoral map and the GOP field.

I was sent an interesting link from, a site that basically aggregates clips from a variety of news sources to show multiple perspectives on a story. It shows a compilation of views on how the President might deal with a soon-to-be-divided government.

The link to the clip is here. It's worth a watch.

Note: As always, I've received no compensation of any form for this link. The folks at newsy sent it to me and I thought you might find it interesting.

More updates over the weekend and, of course, my final projections on Monday night. And, as always, I'll be live-blogging on Tuesday as the results unfold.

Another Note: Some of you have commented on how I have not provided updated graphs on President Obama's approval in quite some time. This has been in order to prioritize content related to the upcoming election. I will provide a full update in a week or so, once we've had a chance to get through the mid-terms and digest the results. For now, suffice it to say that the President's numbers haven't moved a ton...his disapproves still exceed his approves but not by a huge margin.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

8 Days and Counting With No Major Changes, What the Gamblers Say, Poll Selection 101, On Macroeconomics, Just for Fun Predictions

Projection Totals
Senate: 50+ Democratic Caucus (48 Dems, 2 Ind, VP Tie-Breaker), 50 Republicans
House: 231 Republicans, 204 Democrats

Several new polls in the past 72 hours but not a lot of new news to report. My House projection got closer, with generic polling data tightening slightly, leading to a 3 seat swing to the DEMs, but still solidly a projection for GOP control.

In the Senate, only 2 race rating changes and they are both pretty minor and technical. Ohio fell behind my magic (and arbitrary) 20 point threshold again and slips back to a "Likely Hold" versus a "Safe Hold" for the GOP, but at this point, 19 points is pretty much out of reach. Missouri also slips slightly below a threshold, with the current 9.9 point GOP lead moving it back into the "Lean" column versus the "Likely" column, but this is still a long shot for the Dems to flip this seat.

I thought rather than my normal comparison to other major political sites (our friends at, and, I'd take a break and bring back in the gambling money.

For frequent readers, you will know that is the website that lets you bet on anything, including politics, in a stock-market style format. Gamblers tend to follow the polls pretty closely and are often pretty good at predicting election outcomes, although, I would argue based on the record of this site over the past 2 years, not nearly as good as a statistical study of poling data.

At any rate, here are intrade's odds on our closest races (all calculated based on the ratio of the contract price of one candidate to another)

California: DEM favored 3:1
Washington: DEM favored 5:2
Alaska: GOP favored 2:1 (vs. all others)
Colorado: GOP favored 3:2
Nevada: GOP favored 2:1
Pennsylvania: GOP favored 3:1
Illinois: GOP Favored 2:1
West Virginia: GOP Favored 4:3
Kentucky: GOP favored 6:1
Wisconsin: GOP favored 6:1

So, the gamblers pick the same winners as our projection, but not necessarily but the same order in terms of odds. I find a few of the odds a little surprising (how can Kentucky have the same odds as Wisconsin?), but generally not that surprising.

Why I Don't Use Partisan Polls
You may notice that in several races, my projections differ pretty significantly from those of other sites. This is partly due to the use of multiple methods of weighting and averaging, versus many sites that simply use a "most recent poll" or a simple average of recent polls. However, one issue that is pretty fundamental is the use of partisan-affiliated polls.

I do not use polls from partisan-affiliated firms such as Public Policy Polling in my averages. My reason is simple...if you are paid by or affiliated with a party or candidate, I cannot presume objectivity in your polling methodology.

In the West Virginia race in particular, there is a Public Policy Polling poll that shows Gov. Manchin leading by a whopping 10 points, whereas non-partisan polls all show him trailing by small margins. Now, it could well prove out that PPP is right and all the other polls are wrong. But PPP is a Democratic-affiliated firm, so I can't trust the sample selection and weighting, especially so close to an election.

Macroeconomic Issues
A fair criticism of my analysis of GDP growth versus parties in power (and one that I owned up to in my long list of caveats on the limits of such an analysis) is the impact of macroeconomic events far beyond the control of government on economic growth.

In that spirit, I'll commit to doing a similar analysis on three statistics that are directly in the control of government: taxes, spending and deficits. Results this weekend.

Some Just for Fun Predictions
None of these will happen (I hope), but just to have some fun in the current political environment, imagine what could happen:
(1) Alvin Greene wins the South Carolina Senate race with 76% of the vote, despite polling 30+ points behind immediately before election day. Greene attributes his wins to grass roots campaigning and then goes on to admit that he doesn't know what grass roots are or what a campaign is. Diebold swears by the unfailing accuracy of its voting machines.

(2) Christine O'Donnell pulls off a surprise upset in Delaware and immediately declares that she is, in fact, a witch and cast a spell on voters entering the booth to vote for her. She commits to making the cause of her life over the next 6 years Witch and Warlock rights.

(3) Marco Rubio wins big in Florida on Tuesday and announces Presidential exploratory committee on Wednesday. Sarah Palin criticizes his lack of experience.

(4) Harry Reid loses to Sharron Angle and declares that he will spend time with family and work on important social issues such as "breaking down barriers for negros".

(5) Rand Paul wins in Kentucky and declares that he really meant all the crazy stuff he said during the campaign (okay, this one probably will happen!)

More updates later in the week.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Some Statistical Analysis of Parties in Power

Due to my endorsement of Republican Jon Runyan in my home House district (NJ-3), I was recently quoted on the site, a site dedicated to promoting the notion of divided government, a split in control between Congress and the White House. The site's author is supporting Republicans in the mid-terms, since we know the Democrats will control the White House for the next 2 years, but anticipates, presuming the GOP victory projected on this site and elsewhere, that he will be supporting President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 in order to maintain divided government.

There is certainly some anecdotal evidence to support the notion that divided government works. The time period from 1995-2000 perhaps best illustrates this trend, as that period was typified by strong economic growth and a balanced federal budget while Congress was mostly controlled by the GOP and President Clinton was in office. Many would also site the period from 1983-1989, when Democrats controlled Congress and Ronald Reagan was in office, which saw a similar strong economic uptrend (although without the balanced budget, in that case.)

All of this got me to there a statistical correlation between divided government and economic growth. So, I decided to run the numbers. I chose the last 60 years as my time window and looked at GDP growth figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Before sharing the results, let me provide a lot of caveats and potential criticisms of this methodology:
(1) GDP Growth is a Trailing Indicator of Policy
It could be argued that economic growth in the present is not as driven by the economic activities of the present as it is by the policies of the past. For instance, it would be hard to blame President Obama for the onset of the "great recession" (you could argue whether his policies have helped or hurt the recovery, but that is another discussion), but certainly his Presidency has born the brunt of the economic contraction associated with this recession. So the potential lag between power and policy and between policy and economic result will no doubt make this analysis imperfect.

(2) All Republicans and Democrats are Not Equal
John F. Kennedy cut top bracket taxes. Richard Nixon instituted price controls. Bill Clinton reduced welfare benefits. George W. Bush vastly expanded Medicare benefits and spending. I could go on and on. The point is that being a Republican or Democrat is not entirely indicative of economic policy or philosophy, so any statistical analysis that treats Republicans and Democrats as a group ignores the vast difference in policies of Republicans and Democrats over time.

You could also certainly argue that the parties have evolved over time, with Republicans having a strong deficit reduction focus prior to Ronald Reagan and more of a low tax / supply side philosophy from Reagan on. Likewise, Democrats have evolved to favor a more progressive tax system from approximately Jimmy Carter on, whereas support for such a system was less consistent before then.

This poses some problem with looking at the effect of one party versus another, but has less of an effect on the analysis of whether divided or unified government works better.

(3) GDP Can Be a Mirage
You could certainly argue that growth in the 2000s, built on the back of leverage and the housing bubble was unsustainable, so giving "credit" for that growth in a statistical analysis might seem incorrect. Similarly, the stock market bubble of the late 90s artificially inflated growth.

So you could argue whether GDP is the ideal metric to measure this sort of thing on, but I struggled to come up with a better metric.

(4) The Time Window is Arbitrary
I chose the last 60 years because it is after World War 2, which was a unique historical event that might severely distort the analysis and because it approximately represents the modern political era and parties. But this choice is arbitrary and a different time window might yield different results.

(5) Correlation Does Not Indicate Causation
Murders and ice cream consumption can statistically correlated in every major American city. Does that mean that ice cream causes murder? Of course not. Murders peak in the summer, when more people are outside coming in contact with each other. Ice Cream consumption peaks in the summer because of the heat. The heat causes both effects, which causes them to be correlated.

What does this have to do with this analysis? It means that just because one party controlling a particular body of government correlates to stronger or weaker growth does not mean that one party controlling a particular body of government CAUSES stronger or weaker growth. So take all of this with a grain of salt.

(6) Past Results Do Not Project Future Performance
Things change. Even if there is an ironclad correlation, it may or may not continue to be true in the future.

Having caveated all that, let me share with you the results of my statistical analysis.
First, let's look at the overall average economic growth based on control of individual institutions:
Average GDP Growth by House Control:
Republican -- 3.3%
Democrat -- 3.1%

Average GDP Growth by Senate Control:
Republican -- 3.2%
Democrat -- 3.1%

Average GDP Growth by Presidential Control:
Republican -- 2.6%
Democrat -- 4.0%

So, you can see...Democratic President's tend to do a LOT better than Republicans in terms of economic growth, and Republican control of each individual body of Congress tends to do modestly better than Democratic control of those bodies.

In terms of unified government (defined here as one party having control of both Houses and the Presidency) versus divided government (defined as all other combinations), we see:
Average Growth - Divided -- 2.8%
Average Growth - Unified -- 3.7%

But since we've already established that Democratic Presidents have higher average growth than Republicans, so we need to tease out that effect. If we break these scenarios apart by party control of the Presidency, we get:
Democratic President -- Unified -- 4.1%
Democratic President -- Divided -- 3.8%
Republican President -- Unified -- 2.7%
Republican President -- Divided -- 2.6%

So, interestingly, if anything, divided government slightly depresses economic growth rates versus unified government, regardless of which party is in office.

So why does the initial analysis show that Republican control of the House and Senate produces slightly higher growth if Democratic Presidents produce higher growth and unified government is better? Simply because we've HAD divided government more often than not with Democratic Presidents than we've had unified GOP governments, which means that Republican Houses and Senates have been associated far more often with Democratic Presidents than with Republican ones. So, basically, the GOP House and Senate gets a halo from the statistical effect known as co-linearity.

* Statistically, Democratic Presidents have a much stronger record on economic growth than Republican Presidents in the past 60 years. The difference is statistically significant, but explains only 12% of the year-to-year variation in economic growth.
* Unified governments slightly outperform divided governments, but the difference is not statistically significant.

Bottom line: On GDP growth, the evidence runs against divided government being a benefit over the past 60 years, but the statistics aren't strong enough to form a definitive conclusion. Macro events appear to have a much larger impact than what party is in control of what body of government. This is probably not a compelling enough case to convince anyone (myself included) to switch his or her vote.

Disagree with my conclusions? Have some different statistics worth looking at? Let me know.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photo Finish in the Senate But Not In The House, NPR's Foolish Decision

It's going to be a crazy finish to a campaign season that has a mere 11 days left in it:

So, at the moment, the projection is an evenly split Senate, with 50 votes caucusing with the Dems and 50 with the GOP, which, given that Joe Biden is constitutionally the President of the Senate, makes for the slimmest of Democratic majorities.

But let's look at how many close races there are:
Let's first grant as a given that any race that has a 20%+ spread at this point is completely out of reach for the other party. Let's also grant that races that have 10-20% spreads are extremely unlikely to shift.

This leaves us 11 races that are within 10 points.
A Democratic sweep of all of those races yields a 1 seat loss for the Dems and a 1 seat Independent pick-up, with a continuation of a 56/41/3 Senate, with a 58-42 working majority for the Dems. Pretty unlikely, it would seem, but not impossible.
A Republican sweep of all of those races yields an 11 seat gain for the GOP or a 52/46/2 GOP majority. Not as unlikely, as you'll see below.

Let's say you think the 5%+ races are out of reach and let's just look at the races that are very close to toss-ups:
A Democratic sweep of those races yields a net gain of 2 for the GOP and a gain of 1 Independent and therefore a 54/43/3 Senate with a 56-44 working majority for the Dems.
A GOP sweep of those races yields a net gain of 11 seats or the same 52/46/2 GOP majority (52-48 working majority) as the 10 point scenario (since there are no races where the Dem is favored by between 5 and 10 points)

So, at this point, I think the likely range of possibilities is that the Democrats will control between 48 and 56 working seats after November, a very large range for so close to the election because of the broad number of races that are exceptionally close.

My Current Projection: 48 D/50 R/2 I (50+D/50R)
realclearpolitics (no toss-ups): 49 D/49 R/2 I (51D/49R)
electoral-vote: 48 D/49 R/ 2 I / 1 Toss-Up (50-51D/49-50R)
electionprojection: 49 D / 49 R / 2 I (51D/49R)

So, all close, but all projecting a Democratic-controlled Senate at this point.

In the House, my current generic polling average of averages has GOP at +8.5%. The range of my averaging methods puts the GOP lead at between 7.4% and 9.0%.

My current projection: 234 Republicans, 201 Democrats
realclearpolitics (splitting toss-ups): 236 Republicans, 199 Democrats
electoral-vote (splitting toss-ups): 218 Republicans, 217 Democrats
electionprojection: 234 Republicans, 201 Democrats

It has always been my theory that generic polling gives a far better view of the macro shift in the House than trying to cobble together the few and far-between polls in individual congressional districts. We'll see if that ultimately proves true, but it is interesting to note how close my projection is to sites that are doing that detailed analysis. Electoral Vote appears to be a Democratic dream scenario. I don't see how they can hold the House, barring a big move in the next week. There is one outlier Newsweek poll that actually shows them with a 3 point lead, but unless it is supported by some other polls, it is just that, an outlier.

Juan Williams Fired for Saying What Many Are Thinking
In case you haven't actually seen the quote that got Juan Williams fired from NPR (from an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News):
"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot, you know, the kind of books I've written about the Civil Rights Movement and this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Let me state the obvious: that it is not right to assume that someone is a terrorist because they dress in Muslim garb. Let me also state what should be another blindingly obvious fact: if you have flown in the past decade and been on a plane with a group of people who were obviously Muslim, you more than likely got at least a little bit nervous. It isn't logical (the overwhelming majority of Muslims aren't terrorists) and it isn't fair (those Muslims didn't do anything to be branded terrorists), but it's also basic human nature. We should fight that nature and not let those feelings influence our actions. But is admitting to those feelings and talking about them really a fireable offense for a network that claims to want to spawn intelligent political dialogue?

NPR has ever right to fire Juan Williams...heck, journalists have been fired for a lot worse reasons than this. But SHOULD they have? Absolutely not.

How can we ever overcome Eric Holder's statement about being "basically, a nation of cowards" on race if we can't even have a dialogue? Holder's words ring more and more true every time I think about them. What a shame that we are a country that doesn't talk about tough issues.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mid-Week Short Update, Bloopers and Blunders

Brief Election Update
I'm not expecting a lot of big shifts when I do my next full publication of numbers. Polling this week is tracking fairly close to my projection from the weekend:
Most of the close races are holding to form (no big movement from my last post) -- California, Washington, Kentucky, West Virginia and Wisconsin all seem to be holding to form, although California and Washington may be getting a little tighter.

Alaska continues to fascinate, with a new poll showing write-in Murkowski dead even with GOP nominee Joe Miller. Conventional wisdom would still favor a Miller victory, but given the high level of publicity around this one, it's not completely outside the realm of possibility for Murkowski to pull off a second-in-history write-in Senate campaign. For you history buffs, the only successful write-in Senate candidacy was Strom Thurmond in South Carolina in the 1940s, which, a friend of mine from South Carolina likes to point out, proves once and for all that a majority of South Carolinians CAN, in fact, write.

Pennsylvania is suddenly back on my radar, with a couple of new polls showing Joe Sestak with a surprising sudden lead, albeit a very marginal one. This race had looked dead for the Dems until recently. A GOP Senate without a Toomey win is almost unimaginable. The math just doesn't work.

How Can So Many Politicians Be So Dumb?
This year has been an outright gaffe-fest on both sides of the aisle. Some of my favorites:
Democrat Dick Blumenthal in Connecticut claiming he served in Vietnam, when it was an easily verifiable fact that he did not.

Republican Christine O'Donnell not knowing what the First Amendment said was a real hoot. Not knowing with the 14th Amendment was was almost as funny.

Democrat Harry Reid's quote about President Obama "having no negro dialect" would be a riot if it weren't so sad.

Republican Rand Paul's "I support but oppose" the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the best libertarian dance routine I've seen in a while.

Republican Sharron Angle's support of prohibition is great...especially for a candidate from a state whose entire population is in Reno and Las Vegas.

And that's before you get into the House and look at the candidates that dress up as Nazis. Oh what a year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

17 Days to Go, My Personal Endorsement

Just A Little Over Two Weeks...
Minor changes this week in what is shaping up to be a pick 'em battle for control of the Senate. We probably won't know for sure who will be in the majority and the minority until election night and beyond.

We have new polling this week in virtually every state. What changes there were last week were modestly favorable to the Democrats, with the projected winner changing in one state, flipping the projected operating control of the Senate to 51-49 from 50-50 a week ago.

Rating Changes:
Illinois -- in what continues to be consistently one of the closest races in the nation, new polling flips the race very slightly in the blue direction as the race rating moves to Slight Lean Hold by a margin of just 0.04%.

Connecticut -- could a massive GOP upset from WWE Exec Linda McMahon be brewing? I'm not calling it yet, but the race is definitely tightening as McMahon has gone on air with ads reminding everyone of Richard Blumenthal's shameful lies about Vietnam service. The race is now a Lean Hold.

Washington -- in the back-and-forth race between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi which has usually shown Murray with a lead but by varying margins over the course of the past two weeks, Murray pulls out to a slightly larger lead. Lean Hold.

Alaska -- at last some new polls in the weirdest race in the nation. Joe Miller still leads but incumbent Republican and longtime Sarah Palin adversary Lisa Murkowski is closing in via write-in (although I continue to wonder if all those poll respondents will actually take the time to write her name in.) Murkowski intends to continue caucusing with the GOP, so this battle is GOP vs. Independent in a technical sense only. Slight Lean Miller, for now.

North Carolina -- I'm not sure the Democrats ever really had a chance at this one except in the very early going. It's tightened just a little and moves down to a Likely Hold, but I'd frankly be shocked if the Democrats found a way to pull this one out.

Ohio -- this once toss-up race is not completely out of the Democrats' reach. Safe Hold.

My Projection: 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, 2 Independents
Realclearpolitics (no toss-ups): 50 Democrats, 48 Republicans, 2 Independents
Electionprojection: 48 Democrats, 50 Republicans, 2 Independents
Electoral-Vote: 49 Democrats, 48 Republicans, 2 Independents, 1 Tie

So, this week, we are all still calling for a Democratic operating control of the Senate but by varying margins...from 50 to 52 voting seats.

In the House, our average of averages stands at GOP +7.9%.

My Projection: 202 Democrats, 233 Republicans
Realclearpolitics (splitting toss-ups): 204 Democrats, 231 Republicans
Electionprojection: 203 Democrats, 232 Republicans
Electoral-Vote (splitting toss-ups): 217 Democrats, 218 Republicans

Electoral-Vote has the House very close (although still a GOP control pick-up), whereas the rest of us have the Republicans winning by a fairly substantial margin. I'm marginally predicting the largest Republican majority, although I don't pretend to have less than a 1 seat margin of error.

Jon Runyan for the House
I don't pretend that anyone should particularly care how I vote. I urge everyone to educate themselves about the issues and vote the way that they believe is right. I do, however, always share my personal plan a couple of weeks before the election and share my reasoning, in the hope that my thought process might shed some light on your individual quest for the truth.

For those who have started reading this space recently, they will know that I'm a registered Democrat with a strong Independent streak. I voted for Democrats in the last 3 Presidential elections, but did not support Clinton in 1996. In my moves across the country, I've voted for 2 Republican Senators (John Warner in Virginia and then-Republican Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania.) I voted Independent in this past years Governors race, although based on Chris Christie's performance so far, I frankly wish I had voted Republican.

I live in New Jersey's third congressional district, a classic swing district in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Incumbent first term congressman John Adler (D) is a moderate with blue dog fiscal tendencies (he voted for the stimulus but against the health care bill.) Former Eagle lineman Jon Runyan is a committed conservative on both fiscal and social issues.

My decision is based on both macro and micro circumstances.

On a macro level, my view is that the single greatest threat to our country in our massive and growing federal debt. Neither party has presented a credible solution. Democrats seem content to spend away, not touch entitlements and continue to spend heavily on the military in Afghanistan. They are proposing new infrastructure spending and want to extend 75% of the cost of the Bush tax cuts, by extending them for everyone making less than $250,000.

Republicans are no better. No entitlement reform. Higher military spending if anything. 100% of the Bush tax cuts. Empty statements about "cutting waste" ignoring the fact that it is mathematically impossible to balance the budget, maintain entitlements, cut taxes and strength the military at the same time.

My only hope for progress is, frankly, gridlock. A Republican congress unwilling to pass spending bills to a Democratic President. It's not a fool-proof plan for sure, but it worked pretty well in the 1990s.

At the local level, John Adler has run a scummy campaign. His campaign planted a fake "tea-party" candidate on the ballot to attempt to siphon off votes from Runyan. He has run misleading ads about property tax breaks Runyan's family received. He hasn't talked about the issues much and when he has he's sounded like he has no backbone.

Runyan and the Republicans turn my stomach in a lot of ways. Their backwards views on gay rights, immigration and a host of other social issues frankly make me pretty sick. I wasn't sure until very recently what I was going to do in this election, precisely because of those issues. A friend of mine made a point to me that made the decision very clear. He simply said:
"All the social issues you care about don't matter if the country isn't here 50 years from now."

Managing the deficit is a matter of survival for our country, and no, I don't think that is overly dramatic. Our best shot for forcing our government officials to deal with the deficit is a divided government.

Reluctantly, Jon Runyan for Congress.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is Biden Vote #51? GOP Sweep, Split Power or Narrow Dem Majorities -- Why We Still Don't Know, The Spineless and Irresponsible Majority

25 days until election day 2010 and majority control of both Houses of congress is very much still in doubt. The Senate, especially, will likely be controlled by one party or the other by a razor-thin margin. Here are my latest projections:

Every close race had a new poll this week except for Alaska and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, Russ Feingold has been steadily losing ground, and I suspect that when we find a new poll, he will be in the same or a slightly worse spot than he is in our current projection. The maverick from Wisconsin is in real trouble.

In Alaska, I'm dying to see a poll in the fascinating, confusing and dynamic face-off between Tea-Party Republican Joe Miller and Republican Turned Write-in Independent Incumbent Lisa Murkowski. This will be a very tough race to project, because of the unusual dynamics.

Key Rating Moves This Week:
Maryland -- Barbara Mikulski is safe. The Maryland race is on no one's radar. A new Washington Post poll officially puts her average in the safe category.

Connecticut -- embattled state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal resolidifies his once large lead slightly. The race is now a Likely Hold for the Dems.

California -- Barbara Boxer had been pulling away from ex-CEO Carly Fiorina in the past few weeks, but the race has tightened again in the past week and is now only a Slight Lean Hold for Boxer.

Nevada -- a continued close race (in fact, it was within 0.01% last week) moves slightly to the right in the polling, with Tea Partier Sharron Angle pulling out to a 2 point lead. The race now rates a Slight Lean Pick-Up for the GOP.

West Virginia -- this one started with a big Dem lead for incumbent Gub Manchin, but has moved steadily to the right in a state where the President and the Dems in power nationally are highly unpopular. It now rates a Lean Pick-Up for the GOP.

New Hampshire -- mainstream Republican Kelly Ayotte has appeared for months to be running away with this race, but it has started to tighten in the late stages. This race now rates only a Lean Hold for the GOP.

Missouri -- this one appears to be rapidly becoming a lost cause for the Dems. Bellweather states ring for the party in the lead and the GOP is winning the campaign so far. Likely GOP Hold.

Arizona -- same story as Maryland, but for the other party. John McCain is not going to lose, unless he suddenly breaks back out his "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" line. Safe GOP Hold.

My Projection: Democrats 48, Republicans 50, Independents 2 (Democrats retain control with Biden's tie-breaking vote, barring any defections)
realclearpolitics (no toss-ups): Democrats 48, Republicans 50, Independents 2
electoral-vote: Republicans 50, Democrats 47, Independents 2, 1 Tie
electionprojection: Democrats 48, Republicans 50, Independents 2

So, we are all basically on the same page, for the second week in a row.

In the House,
My average of generic polling surges to the right, with the GOP showing at +7.2% now. The biggest driver is the latest Gallup polling, which contained a lot of refinement to their projections. In fact, Gallup has 2 likely voter models that they are using, one for a low turnout election and one for a high turnout election. Since those polls rely on the same sample and Gallup is not advising which model they believe, I am weighting both models at 50% of a normal poll. The Gallup polls show the best numbers for the GOP with GOP +13% in the high turnout scenario and GOP +18% in the low turnout scenario. If Gallup is right, the House will be a blow-out. I'm not quite showing that yet in my averages.

My Projection: 232 Republicans, 203 Democrats
realclearpolitics (splitting toss-ups): 229 Republicans, 206 Democrats
electoral-vote (splitting toss-ups): 219 Democrats, 216 Republicans
electionprojection: 222 Republicans, 213 Democrats

So, on the House, the projections are all over the map. Basically, my projection and realclearpolitics show a big gain for the GOP (although not quite an outright blowout), electionprojection has a narrow GOP victory and electoral-vote has the DEMs retaining the House. Obviously, the House is harder to project than the Senate.

Bottom line, we still don't really know which party will control either House come next year.

Budgets Matter
I've been heavy on the polls and light on the political commentary as of late, as I typically do as we close in on an election, but I would be remiss if I didn't say shame on the Democrats for adjourning Congress with no budget outline and no appropriations bills passed. A kick the can down the road continuing resolution is all that Congress could muster. No debate on tax policy or spending priorities. Uncertainty for both governmental agencies as to what their budget will be and businesses and individuals.

Responsibility number one for congress is to manage budgets and taxation. On this fundamental test, Pelosi and Reid and company have showed themselves to be spineless, unwilling to even have a debate or declare positions going into an election. Are they even trying to win back the hearts and minds of the American people?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

1 Month and Counting....

31 short days to go before the 2010 mid-terms. Here is the latest projection tracker:

We have new polls in 20 states. The only states without new polls that would be worth seeing are Delaware (aren't you dying to know how Christine O'Donnell is faring after all the national publicity?) and Missouri (a race presently rated Lean GOP, but which could be widening or narrowing, for all we know.)

The only two races where the actual projected winner changed are:
West Virginia -- in yet another race that seemed like a lock for a well known Democrat, the GOP has narrowed and now pulled out to a slight lead. It is worth noting that at this point, only Rasmussen is polling the race, therefore the accuracy of this projection is significantly reduced versus states where we have a variety of polls to weight and average. Hopefully, given how close the race now is, other firms will come in.

Nevada -- I told you I wouldn't rate any more toss-ups, and I'm sticking to that. But, let's be honest, a 0.01% lead for Harry Reid doesn't amount to anything, given that my average error is several multiples of that lead. But technically, at least, this race shifts from the GOP column to the DEM column this week.

Other races on the move:
New York (Gillebrand) -- moves back to "Likely Hold". There was 1 poll, in the average both last week and this week, that had Gillebrand's lead at a mere 1 point. Other polls have a much wider margin than that, and as more polls have rolled in, the averages have shifted back in the DEMs favor. Now, the 1 point poll could be an outlier, or it could later be validated by other polling, but so far, everything else has Gillebrand's lead at at least double digits.

Connecticut -- embattled AG Blumenthal continues to have a faltering campaign, putting this dark blue state more and more in play. This race, in many ways, is starting to look like a replay of the Scott Brown special election last year, where a anti-Democratic national mood, combined with an awful Democratic candidate, let the GOP slip one by the DEMs. The race moves down to a "Slight Lean Hold".

Washington -- Who would've thought going into this cycle that Patty Murray would be a realistic GOP target? Certainly not I. She still leads, in a race that has been bouncing up and down the past few weeks, but it now averages out to a "Slight Lean Hold".

Kentucky -- Rand Paul still has to be favored in deep red Kentucky in a Republican year, but he can't seem to pull away. He keeps saying radical things, even by Kentucky standards. The race moves to a "Slight Lean Hold".

Colorado -- Buck is continuing to slowly open up a lead on a race that was a toss-up as recently as a month ago. Moves to "Lean GOP Pick-Up".

Alaska -- this will undoubtedly be one of the hardest races to poll, project or understand. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign has thrust things into chaos. Murkowski currently polls second to Joe Miller. Even though Murkowski is a current GOP Senator, for tracking purposes, we are considering her an Independent, as she is not running on the GOP ticket. This race moves to a "Lean GOP Hold", although the second-place poller, Murkowski, is actually the GOP incumbent. Confused yet? Incidentally, write-in candidates historically fall well short of their polling numbers. It will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

New Hampshire -- Kelly Ayotte is pulling away a bit again and this race goes to "Likely Hold". There appears to be a trend here, of mainstream Republicans having no issues and more fringe, tea-party candidates polling well behind where you would expect them (see Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell) heard that prediction first here...

Georgia -- not much of a rating changes....Isakson is almost certain to win. His lead moves from 19 points to 21 points, which technically changes the rating from "Likely Hold" to "Safe Hold". Really, Isakson was pretty safe last week too.

So, the projection is still for a 49/49/2 Senate with Democrats having a 51/49 operating advantage.

Other sites current projections: (no toss-ups): 49 D/49 R/2 I 48 D/49 R/2 I / 1 exactly even (WA) 49 D/49 R/ 2 I

So, we are basically all on the same page at this point as far as the Senate is concerned.

In the House...
The generic polls have tightened to an average of averages of GOP +2.5%.

My Projection: 218 R / 217 D (splitting toss-ups): 226 R / 209 D 210 R / 225 D 222 R / 213 D

You can see 2 trends here...first, almost all of the projections are closer than they were last week. Second, they have diverged. 3 out of 4 still predict a GOP takeover of the House (electoral-vote being the exception), but all have the margin very close.

It's interesting....we are 4 and a half weeks from the election, and in my eyes, both the House and the Senate are very much up for grabs. There are feasible scenarios for the Democrats retaining both or for the GOP taking both. The one scenario that would really surprise me would be a GOP takeover of the Senate but not the House. The House still seems marginally more winnable.

So what's the smart money betting on? Well, I don't know how smart a bunch of gamblers are, but here are the latest odds, courtesy of

Odds of a GOP House Takeover: 75%
Odds of a GOP Senate Takeover: 24%

Sounds about right to me.

Here are some odds on our closest races:
Rand Paul in Kentucky: 80%
Harry Reid in Nevada: 55%
Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut: 69%
Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania: 85%

We'll keep an eye on the gamblers as well as the polls. If you like this site, tell your friends.