A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).

Karl

Monday, November 5, 2012

State of the Race – November 5 (What to Watch For)


As you can see from the  picture, it all starts with a blank map tomorrow night. In prepara-tion for Election Day, I thought I'd share a few final thoughts and things to be looking for as you watch the coverage on election night.

1.                More 2004 Similarities: For those of you who have been reading this election analysis all along know that I have been drawing many comparisons to the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Here are a couple more to add to the list: Yesterday I was watching NBC's Meet the Press and they released the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and it found Obama leading Romney by a margin of 48% to 47%. And what was the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in 2004? You guessed it – Bush was leading Kerry 48% to 47%.

If Obama does repeat Bush's performance and gets reelected, then there is another similarity as well. You may have heard over the weekend that the Washington Redskins have been a predictor for presidential elections over the years. The predictor is as follows: if the Redskins win their last home game before the election than the party that currently controls the White House will win the election and conversely, if the Redskins lose than the challenging party will win. Since 1940, this predictor has been right 17 out of 18 times. The one time it was wrong? Once again, you guessed it – 2004 when the Redskins lost to the Packers, but President Bush was reelected.

2.                Early State Results: At 7:00 EST, polls will close in six different states – Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia & Vermont. I fully expect the networks will call Kentucky, South Carolina and Vermont shortly thereafter as Kentucky and South Carolina are in the “Safe” Romney category and Vermont is in the “Safe” Obama category. I would be shocked if Virginia is called for either side before any real results start coming in as it has been a clear tossup state throughout this entire race. However, the more interesting states that will be closing first are Georgia and Indiana. Both of these states are in the “Likely” Romney category and I would expect they would be called relatively early in the evening. However, I will be paying especially close attention to how quickly Indiana is called. It was a state that went for Obama in 2008, but the president has not really contested it in this cycle. If it is called immediately for Romney, that is clearly a good sign for the Republicans, but if it lingers throughout the evening, that could be a sign of a long evening for the Romney campaign.

On the flipside, there are no real comparable Obama states that would give a similar indication until you get to 9:00 EST which is when the polls close in Minnesota and New Mexico. These are both states that are in the “Likely” Obama category and have had similar poll numbers to Georgia and Indiana. If there is a lack of calling these two states shortly after they are closed, that could portend poorly for Obama.

3.                FLOHVA: I mentioned that Virginia closes polls at 7:00 EST and this is the first of the major battlegrounds that could potentially get called. As I said in my prediction post yesterday, Romney will most likely need to sweep FLOHVA in order to win. If you don't believe me, just look at where Romney is spending his last full day of campaigning: he was in Florida this morning, then he goes to Virginia and then he goes to Ohio before finishing the day in New Hampshire. All three of these states close their polls relatively early in the evening as Ohio closes at 7:30 EST and Florida closes its final polls at 8:00 EST. Many of Florida's polls will actually close at 7:00 EST, but since the Florida Panhandle is in the central time zone, those polls remain open until 8:00 EST. All this raises good point, whenever I'm talking about polls closing, I am using the time at which point ALL polls are closed in a state.

4.                Poll Closing Times in the Battlegrounds: As for the 11 battleground states that I have previously identified, the polls will close in these 11 states at the following times (all times EST):
7:00 – Virginia
7:30 – North Carolina, Ohio
8:00 – Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania
9:00 – Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin
10:00 – Iowa, Nevada

As I've said all along, these are the states to watch and obviously as they start to get called we will have a better idea of who the next president will be. North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan are the ones that should be the easiest to call as North Carolina has been trending towards Romney and Pennsylvania and Michigan towards Obama. If it gets late in the evening and any of these states has not been called, that is bad news for the candidate who is expected to win that state.

5.                Poll Closings for Senate Battlegrounds: On Saturday, I provided my predictionfor the Senate races as well. As a reminder, below are the poll closing times for those states that I think will determine which party controls the upper chamber in Congress. Once again, all times are EST and as with my Senate chart, I have labeled the states in blue if there currently controlled by the Democrats and in red if there currently controlled by the Republicans and the asterix behind the state name indicates that it is an incumbent that is running.
7:00 – Indiana, Virginia
8:00 – Maine, Massachusetts*, Missouri*
9:00 – Arizona, Wisconsin
10:00 – Montana*, Nevada*

I have added Maine to this list only because the significance it could have if independent candidate Angus King does win as expected. If he does, I doubt he will indicate a preference for which party he will caucus with, but it will be interesting to see if you can read anything when and if he does give a victory speech.

6.                Turnout in States Affected by Hurricane Sandy: How the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York respond to the devastation from Hurricane Sandy and provide for polling places might be an interesting story. In fact, I would guess that turnout will be lower in these three states, especially New Jersey and New York. While I do not expect this to affect who wins these states, it could impact the larger popular vote total. Obama is expected to win all three of these states and if he ends up winning the Electoral College, but turnout has been suppressed in these three states than it is a very real possibility that Sandy may cause a split decision and Romney pulls out a popular vote victory. If you read my prediction post yesterday, you know that I thought about predicting a split decision. While I do not think it will happen, the most likely scenario if it did occur would be Obama winning the Electoral College and Romney winning the popular vote and Hurricane Sandy might be the culprit if it does occur.

7.                Is 11:00 Really the Midnight Hour? In looking at when all the polls close, I went through a scenario of what the map might look like on election night. Unless there is some big surprise and one of the key battleground states gets called early in the evening, Romney will probably have the electoral vote lead for most of the evening. However, that lead might turn into a pumpkin at 11:00 EST. That's because there are 78 electoral votes in the states of California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington that will most likely go into Obama's column at 11:00 EST when those states’ polls close. In fact, while I doubt it will happen, if Obama gets to 192 electoral votes or higher prior to 11:00 EST, then the race is over as those 78 electoral votes will put him over the top. So if you're rooting for Romney and you see an electoral vote lead early in the evening, just remember the lesson of Cinderella as 11:00 just might be your midnight hour.

8.                Victory Speech: Whoever wins on Tuesday will have a difficult road ahead of him as the country is clearly divided and Congress will most likely be divided with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate. This means that whoever is elected president will have to deal with the other party to get things done. You could have an honest debate about which of the two candidates is best equipped to do this, but there is no escaping the fact that there will need to be some bipartisanship to accomplish any agenda. Additionally, it's clear to me that barring something unforeseen on election night, neither candidate will be able to claim a mandate for his election. Therefore, if we do get a victory speech early Wednesday morning, then I am very interested to see what tone the victor takes. Will he be humble in accepting his victory recognizing that he does not have a clear mandate and must try and repair a divided nation? Or will he take a tone where he misreads the election and tries to claim a mandate?

Well those are my final thoughts and things to look for on election night. Check back tomorrow as if there is anything that develops before the polls are closing, I'll try and post. Likewise, if there are any final changes in my categories for the states, I will also report that. Once again, Happy Voting!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

State of the Race – November 4 (POTUS Prediction)


We are now two days away from Election Day and I have been tracking this race for nearly 3 months. Combined the campaigns spent nearly $1 billion trying to convince you to elect them to the presidency. After all that time and money, I am ready to predict – a VERY long night. I have been saying for some time and laid out in my post on September 29 that this election had many similarities to 2004. If you recall, that election night went into the early morning hours on Wednesday and it wasn't until John Kerry conceded the election around noon on Wednesday that we knew it was over. In my post on September 29, I provided a chart with similarities between the 2004 election and this year's election. I think after Tuesday, we will be able to add another similarity – Swing State That Decides the Race: Ohio. It was that state that put George W. Bush over the top in 2004 and I expect that it will be the key to either of these candidates winning on Tuesday.

As reminder, here's a chart of where I saw the states in my analysis yesterday. Of course, if the states go exactly according to this prediction, then the “Tossup” states do not matter as President Obama will have 281 electoral votes, 11 more than he needs to win reelection. However, I do not think the analysis is quite that easy.


Safe
Likely
Lean
Obama
CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA
MI, MN, NM, OR, PA
IA, NV, NH, OH, WI
Romney
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY
AZ, GA, IN, MO
NC
Tossup
CO, FL, VA

A note on my analysis: since the first debate at the beginning of October, I began tracking all the polls on a spreadsheet that were done in the 11 battleground states that I previously identified (CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NC, 0H, PA, VA & WI). When I talk about average poll numbers below, it is an average of all those poll numbers done in a specific state over the last month. I'll also be discussing the seven-day average which looks at a state’s poll numbers from last Sunday to today.

For starters, let's look at the best case scenario for both candidates. I've seen people on both sides predict well over 300 for "their" candidate, but I think both are pipe dreams. Let's start with President Obama's best case scenario. I have it represented in this map:

In this scenario, Obama wins all the states that I have on his side, plus two out of the three “Tossup” states. I know that he has spent resources trying to win Florida, but of all the battleground states, Florida and North Carolina are the only states that have an average poll number that favors Romney. Most political commentators will tell you that undecided voters usually will break against the incumbent, so if Obama is already behind in those two states, I find it hard to believe that he'll be able to catch up. As such, I think Florida and North Carolina are both out of his reach. If on election night Obama ends up winning Florida, then I think it will be a very long night for the Romney campaign as there is really no way for Romney to win without Florida.

However, Florida is not the only state that has major significance. On election night, you can expect a lot of discussion about FLOHVA. Every election, there are usually big battleground states that commentators will point to as being the ones that are most critical. This year, the commentators have taken to calling them FLOHVA (Florida, Ohio & Virginia). This is a slight preview of what I was going to say in tomorrow's post regarding what to watch for, but these three states are critical if Romney is to win. If Obama wins any of these three states, he will most likely win the election. For Romney to win, he probably needs to sweep these three states.

As for Romney, his best case scenario is depicted below:

This map has Romney winning all of the states on his side of the ledger, plus all the tossups and winning all of the “Lean” Obama states except for Wisconsin. In fact, this map shows Romney winning every state that George W. Bush won at least once except for New Mexico. Of the “Lean” Obama states that would be least likely to go to Romney, I would point to Nevada due to their demographics, specifically their higher percentage of Latino voters. In looking at the average poll numbers in the battleground states, there have been four where no poll has shown Romney in the lead. Some polls have shown the candidates tied in these states, but Romney has never led in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. As such, I find it hard to believe that he will be able to pick one of those states off, but his best chance is in Nevada if the Latino turnout is down. In other words, a more realistic best case scenario for Romney would be 285 electoral votes. A final note on Nevada and the Latino vote directly relates to New Mexico. As I said above, the one state that George W. Bush was able to win once that Romney has not been competitive in is New Mexico and this is largely due to the higher percentage of Latinos in New Mexico. This is a post for another day, but the Republican Party needs to do something about the Latino vote as today it is just states like New Mexico and Nevada that are harder to win, but in the future if the Latino vote continues to grow, it could be Arizona and Texas and there's no way a Republican can win without those two states.

Now that we've looked at the best case scenarios for both candidates, where do I think things will fall? As I said above, I think it will all come down to Ohio. In looking at the 30 day averages as I said above, Obama has never trailed in any polls in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If we give him those four states, he is at 253 electoral votes while Governor Romney remains at 191. However, Romney has had a pretty consistently in North Carolina and has only trailed in one poll that came out within the last month. This would put Governor Romney at 206 electoral votes. Like I said above, I also find it hard to believe that Obama will be able to pull out Florida, so this puts Romney at 235 electoral votes.

If you look at this scenario, Ohio would already have enough electoral votes to put Obama over the magic number of 270. In other words, even if we gave Romney all the other battleground states (CO, IA, NH & VA), it would not be enough. As far as where these other four states will fall, I think we can break them into two different categories. First is Colorado and Virginia which have been the two states where the average polling has been the closest. As I said above, conventional wisdom is that undecideds will break against the incumbent and these are two states where I could see this happening. As such, I predict that those two states will go to Romney. As for Iowa and New Hampshire, these are two states that are known politically for their early involvement in the primary process and polling in both of these states has been unreliable over the years. That said, the polls in both of these states seem to be moving towards the president over the last week or two. If we give these two states to Obama, then he would lead Romney in the Electoral College 263-257. Once again, it would come down to Ohio.

It's funny how a week changes things. Last weekend I was prepared to write a prediction indicating that Romney would win Ohio and the presidency 275-263, but this week I am inclined to believe that Obama will make history in becoming only the second president to win reelection with fewer electoral votes than he received in his first election. (For more about this historical fact, see my post on October 20). What changed my analysis? Two different things that may very well be interrelated. First of all, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and dominated the news coverage for most of this past week. After the final debate, the polls seem to indicate that any momentum Romney had gained from the first debate had slowed down and things were remaining fairly static. This past week was Romney's last chance to really drive home an argument on the economy and where he felt President Obama had failed. Unfortunately for him, Sandy allowed Obama to do the one thing an incumbent can do to help his reelection and that is act like the president. With Obama touring the areas of destruction and providing comfort to those who were affected by the tragedy, Romney was relegated to expressing sympathy for the victims from afar and not appearing that he was doing anything that would be deemed too political. Ultimately, I think Romney struck the right balance, but this was really a losing proposition for him. In fact, I think the only way that Romney could have been helped by this tragedy was if Obama had made a misstep, which he did not.

The second thing that made me change my mind was what started happening with the polling. One of the main reasons why I had thought about predicting Romney win was that the national polling was favoring Romney despite the fact that Obama seemed to be leading the state-by-state polling. While it was certainly within the realm of possibility that we would have another election where the popular vote winner lost the Electoral College, I found it hard to believe it would happen in a reelection scenario – something that has NEVER happened. In fact, I even toyed with the idea of predicting a split decision where Romney would win the popular vote, but Obama would get reelected based on the Electoral College. However, over the last week the national polling has moved towards the president ever so slightly and most national polls now have the race either tied or have Obama with a slight lead. Additionally, the same thing is happening in the state-by-state polling. Of the 11 battleground states, the average poll number over the last seven days is better for the president compared to the 30 day average in every state except for Pennsylvania and that is a bit misleading as there have only been three polls done in Pennsylvania over the last week. In fact, seeing the uphill climb that Romney has in Ohio might very well be the reason why he is making a last-ditch effort to win Pennsylvania even though he made no campaign stops and did little advertising in the state prior to these last few days. The question is whether it is too little, too late.

Many people believe that the polling done and released the last weekend before the election give a good indication for who will win the race if you compare it to the polling trend. In other words, you will be able to see if the race is breaking in one direction or the other and that should tell you who will win on Election Day. If this is true, then that is good news for President Obama. It is this exact scenario that had me consider putting Virginia in Obama's category as it is the state where I have seen this trend the most pronounced. The average polling in Virginia over the last week is a full point higher for Obama then the 30 day average is. As such, I would not be surprised at all if Obama did win Virginia as well. As I said above, if Obama wins any of the FLOHVA states, he wins. The scenario is clearly shown here because if Obama does win Virginia, that would give him 294 electoral votes meaning that he could even afford to lose the 18 electoral votes in Ohio. However, I will stick with the scenario where it all comes down to Ohio and predict the president will get reelected by a margin of 281-257 and the map will look like this:

Interestingly, if my predictions on the White House, Senate and House are correct, it will mean that everything will remain the same and a country that is sick of business as usual in Washington will have done the unthinkable and returned things to exactly where they were over the last two years. Well, whatever happens, and whatever your persuasion, I encourage you to make sure that you vote on Tuesday if you have not done so already. Tomorrow I'll post my election night preview and give you a few things to look for on election night that may tell us where things are headed. Happy Voting!!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

State of the Race – November 3 (Senate Prediction)


For my final weekly report, I wanted to give my predic-tions for this Tuesday's election and give you some things to look for on election night. However, if I would've done that all in one post, it would have been a VERY long one. So I decided to break this into three different posts with my prediction for the Senate races today, my prediction for the presidential race tomorrow and a post on what to look for on election night on Monday or early Tuesday.

Before I get into my Senate prediction, I thought we should take a look at where things stand in the presidential race as we enter the final weekend. Since last week's report, there have been 88 polls done in 31 states; including 57 polls in the 11 battleground states I have identified (CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NC, 0H, PA, VA & WI). So just three days until Election Day, here's where we stand:


Safe
Likely
Lean
Total
Obama
179
58
44
281
Romney
143
48
15
206
Tossup



51

If you want to see how I arrived at these categories, I would encourage you to review the first “State of the Race” post I did on August 11 which can be found here. The photo above gives a visual breakdown of which side each states fall on. For a list of which states fall in which categories, I provide the following chart:


Safe
Likely
Lean
Obama
CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA
MI, MN, NM, OR, PA
IA, NV, NH, OH, WI
Romney
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY
AZ, GA, IN, MO
NC
Tossup
CO, FL, VA

Here are the changes from last week: Connecticut moves from “Likely” Obama to “Safe” Obama; New Hampshire from “Tossup” to “Lean” Obama; and Florida from “Lean” Romney to “Tossup.” As I said, tomorrow I'll get into more detail on the presidential race and give my prediction for where I think it will end up in the Electoral College.

As for the Senate races – in short, I think the Democrats will retain control of the Senate. As a brief aside, you will notice I have said nothing about control of the House. That is because it is widely considered a foregone conclusion that the Republicans will retain control of the House, and I see no reason to disagree with that conventional wisdom. The race for control of the Senate however has been much more vigorously contested and is much easier to track. Last week, I provided a chart of where I see the Senate races and I have updated the chart for this week below. A reminder that states in blue are currently held by the Democrats or an Independent who caucuses with them, states in red are currently held by the Republicans and a state with an asterix after it signifies that it is a race with an incumbent.


Safe
Likely
Lean
Democrat
CA*, DE*, MD*, MI*, MN*, NJ*, NY*, RI*, VT*, WA*, WV*
CT, FL*, HI, NM, OH*, PA*
IN, MA*, MO*
Republican
MS*, TN*, TX, UT*, WY*
NE, ND
AZ, NV*
Independent

ME

Tossup
MT*, VA, WI

Since my post last week, there have been three changes – all in favor of the Democrats. Michigan moves from “Likely” Democrat to “Safe” Democrat; Connecticut moves from “Lean” Democrat to “Likely” Democrat; and Indiana moves from “Lean” Republican to “Lean” Democrat. When you add in the seats currently held by each party and add in all the seats that are leaning in one direction or the other, the breakdown is 50-46-1 in favor of Democrats.

A few thoughts on the states I have in both of the “Lean” categories. On the Republican side, Nevada is a state that is trending towards President Obama and the demographics of that state seem to be increasingly favoring the Democrats. Senator Heller has run a good campaign and most of the recent polls indicate that he is leading. However, two years ago the polls also suggested that Senate majority leader Harry Reid might be on his way to defeat and he ended up surviving. In other words, it is only the power of incumbency that has kept this race in the “Lean” category and out of the “Tossup” category.

As for the other “Lean” Republican race, the polling in Arizona has been sparse and over the last month, there have been polls that had both candidates in the lead. An interesting side note to the Democratic candidate is that Richard Carmona was the Surgeon General under George W. Bush, so he may have some appeal to a state that clearly leans red. That being said, with the presidential race at the top of the ticket, I would expect that will help Congressman Flake win this race.

On the Democratic side, these are three states where the presidential race clearly leans in one direction and there is a chance that the Senate race will go the opposite direction. The exception that will potentially buck this trend is Massachusetts as Scott Brown tries to re-create the surprise he had in January 2010 when he shocked the political world and won Ted Kennedy's former seat in a special election. I doubt that Senator Brown will be able to duplicate this effort as he runs in a general election with a presidential race at the top of the ticket. The polling has had Elizabeth Warren leading, but she is underperforming compared to President Obama’s numbers in the state. All that said, if there is a surprise on election night that favors the Republicans, this is the one I would look for.

As for Indiana and Missouri, these are almost identical races. They are states where the Republicans should be winning easily, but the conservative candidates put up by the Republicans have made some extreme statements concerning abortion and rape and it has alienated moderates and independent voters. Indiana is especially an interesting state as the conservatives in the state decided to oust sitting Senator Dick Lugar in the Republican primary in favor of State Treasurer Richard Mourdock as they felt Senator Lugar was not conservative enough and had been in Washington too long. This was a state that I had planned as being my pick for surprise of the night, but the recent polling has made it so that the Democrats are now favored in this race. Similarly, the Republican voters in Missouri put up a more conservative candidate against Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. When pundits were looking at the Senate map at the beginning of this year, these were two states that were thought to be easy wins for the Republicans, but the conservative candidates that were nominated have made this much harder for the GOP. If these two states elect Democratic senators and the Democrats control the Senate by one or two seats, there will be a lot written about whether the extreme conservative wing of the party cost the Republicans control of the Senate.

Finally, we should take a look at the three states that I placed in the “Tossup” category. The first is Montana which is a state that will clearly go for Romney, but Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester has run a good campaign and has a slight lead in the latest polls. The question will be whether that is enough to overcome the pull of the presidential race at the top of the ticket. As for Virginia and Wisconsin, these are two open seats in battleground states, so it's not surprising to see that they are tossup states in the Senate as well. In Virginia, it is an interesting race as it features two candidates that have held statewide office before in former Democratic Governor Tim Kaine against former Republican Senator and Governor George Allen. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is a state that leans Democratic, but the Republicans have put up a strong candidate with good name recognition in former Governor and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who is running against Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Honestly, who wins either of these two races is anyone's guess.

So here's my predic-tion: I do not expect any surprises on the states I have currently in the “Lean” categories, so I'll predict that the Republicans will win those states to get to 46 Senate seats and the Democrats will win their seats to get to 50 Senate seats. A potential surprise on both sides: for the Republicans as I said above, look for them to potentially pickoff Massachusetts and for the Democrats, they could potentially pickoff Arizona. As for the “Tossup” states, I'll predict that Senator Jon Tester squeaks out a win and retains his seat in Montana. In Virginia and Wisconsin, I'll predict these states will split and Virginia will go Democrat, while Wisconsin will go Republican. The picture above shows the breakdown and this would result in the Democrats retaining control of the Senate 52-47-1. (A quick note about the map: the states in gray do not have Senate races this year.) As this would put the Democrats in control, I then predict that Senator-elect Angus King from Maine will then choose to caucus with the Democrats giving them a total of 53 seats, which is what they have currently.

As I said, tomorrow I will post my prediction for the presidential race, so stay tuned…

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

State of the Race – October 31 (The More Important Race: Control of the Senate)


With the Northeast in the process of cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, the number of polls being done has actually slowed down. As a result, there has not been much movement in the presidential race since my report on Saturday. So I thought I would dedicate this post to the control of the Senate. While there has been a lot of focus on the presidential race, it could very easily be argued that the more important race is being conducted in 33 states where the control of the Senate will be decided. More on that below.

For those of you who are political novices, US Senators are elected to a six-year term and since federal elections are conducted every two years, one third of the Senate is up for election every two years. Of the 33 Senate races this year, 21 of the seats are currently held by a Democrat, 10 seats are held by a Republican and 2 seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democrats (Joe Lieberman, CT and Bernie Sanders, VT). Senator Lieberman is retiring, so I will count that as a seat currently held by the Democrats and since Senator Sanders has been a reliable ally for the Democrats, I will count him as a Democrat as well for the purposes of my analysis which means that there are 23 seats which the Democrats are trying to hold and only 10 seats which the Republicans are trying to hold.

Presently, the Democrats hold a majority in the Senate by a 53-47 margin. This means that if the Republicans want to take control of the Senate they will need a net gain of four seats to take out right control or a net gain of three seats to arrive at a 50-50 tie which they would have control of, if Governor Romney is elected and Paul Ryan becomes Vice President who would then have the tie-breaking vote as President of the Senate. With that in mind, let's look at the 33 states that have senatorial elections this year:

Democrats: California*, Connecticut, Delaware*, Florida*, Hawaii, Maryland*, Michigan*, Minnesota*, Missouri*, Montana*, Nebraska, New Jersey*, New Mexico, New York*, North Dakota, Ohio*, Pennsylvania*, Rhode Island*, Vermont*, Virginia, Washington*, West Virginia* & Wisconsin
Republicans: Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts*, Mississippi*, Nevada*, Tennessee*, Texas, Utah* & Wyoming*

Of those states listed, the asterix indicates that it is a state where an incumbent is running for reelection. Using the same categories I am using for the presidential race, here's where I see the Senate races (blue represents a seat currently controlled by the Democrats and red represents a seat currently controlled by the Republicans):


Safe
Likely
Lean
Democrat
CA*, DE*, MD*, MN*, NJ*, NY*, RI*, VT*, WA*, WV*
FL*, HI, MI*, NM, OH*, PA*,
CT, MA*, MO*
Republican
MS*, TN*, TX, UT*, WY*
NE, ND
AZ, IN, NV*
Independent

ME

Tossup
MT*, VA, WI

In terms of the total seats control by both parties, the breakdown is as follows: for seats not up for election or considered safe, the Republicans have an advantage of 42-40. If you add in the seats I've identified as “Likely” for a given party, the Democrats hold the advantage 46-44-1. If you add in the “Lean” seats, the Democrat's advantage is 49-47-1. Finally, there are also three states which I have identified as “Tossup” seats.

Based on this, I have a couple of observations. First, it is readily apparent that whichever party controls the Senate, it will likely be by a very narrow margin. Secondly, the Senate race in Maine may take on a lot more importance after the election if former Maine Governor Angus King is elected as an independent and the Senate party breakdown is 50-49. King holds a significant lead in the polls in Maine and I contemplated putting it in the “Safe” category, but decided not to as he is an independent, yet not an incumbent. At this point, it is unknown which party King would caucus with and many believe that he would caucus with the Democrats, but there is an argument to be made that he could caucus with the Republicans, especially if they will be in the majority.

My final observation regarding the Senate map is that, much like the presidential race, it seems to favor the Democrats. For instance, if you look at the 3 “Tossup” states, two of them were won by President Obama in 2008 and he is competitive in both of them this year as well. Also, states that the Republicans would have liked to be more competitive in appear to be slipping away, such as Florida and Ohio and other states that you would have thought would have been relatively safe for the Republicans have been closer than expected, such as Arizona and Indiana. While the Republicans will probably pick up two of the seats control by the Democrats, this very well may get wiped out with the Democratic win in Massachusetts and an Independent win in Maine. Once again, like the presidential race, the Republicans look like they need to sweep the tossup states in order to win and that would only put them at a 50-50 tie meaning they would need to pick off one of the "Lean" Democrat states to get to a clear majority of 51.

As I said above, the race for the Senate is arguably more important than the presidential race in that control of the Senate may very well determine where things go for the next two years even more than who is sitting in the White House. If Obama is reelected but the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, he may have a difficult time getting much of his agenda passed. However, if the Democrats retain control the Senate, the legislative battles will be waged on the Hill much like the last two years, but a Republican controlled House would have to recognize that there's nothing they can do without the President's approval and they will no longer be able to wait for his electoral defeat. This may make them more willing to negotiate and work with the Senate Democrats. On the other hand, if Romney wins the presidency, but the Democrats retain control of Senate, it will probably severely limit how much Romney is able to accomplish towards his stated goals. For instance, I find it highly unlikely that a Democratic-controlled Senate would pass a bill that repeals Obama-care which Governor Romney has promised to do. However, if Romney is elected with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, the Democrats will be limited to trying to filibuster things in the Senate, but much of what Romney would want to accomplish will probably get done. In other words, while both parties are hoping that they win the presidential race, it is the race for control of Senate which has turned into their backup plan to disrupt or support the agenda of whoever wins the presidency.

Later this week, I will post my prediction for the presidential race and I will provide the breakdown of where I think these Senate races will go as well. In the meantime, do not ignore the Senate races as they are just as much a factor in what happens the next 2 to 4 years as does the race to be the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

State of the Race – October 27 (T-Minus 10 Days & Counting…)


We are now just 10 days from the election, and this week there was a flurry of new polls conduct-ed. Since last week's report, there have been 77 polls done in 26 states; including 53 polls in the 11 battleground states I have identified (CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NC, 0H, PA, VA & WI). So with a week and a half until Election Day, here's where we stand:


Safe
Likely
Lean
Total
Obama
172
65
40
277
Romney
143
48
44
235
Tossup



26

If you want to see how I arrived at these categories, I would encourage you to review the first “State of the Race” post I did on August 11 which can be found here. The photo above gives a visual breakdown of which side each states fall on. For a list of which states fall in which categories, I provide the following chart:


Safe
Likely
Lean
Obama
CA, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA
CT, MI, MN, NM, OR, PA
IA, NV, OH, WI
Romney
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY
AZ, GA, IN, MO
FL, NC
Tossup
CO, NH, VA

Here are the changes from last week: New Jersey and Washington moved from “Likely” Obama to “Safe” Obama; Pennsylvania from “Lean” Obama to “Likely” Obama; Nevada from “Tossup” to “Lean” Obama; and Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee from “Likely” Romney to “Safe” Romney.

Most of these changes are insignificant and represent a return of some states to categories they were in the previous week – such as states on both sides of the margins moving from “Likely” back to “Safe.” At this point, I think the map has pretty much taken shape and I do not expect any more major changes as we get closer to Election Day unless there is some late “October Surprise,” but I don't even think anything major in this final week would be reflected accurately in any more polling that is done due to the time it takes to conduct the state-by-state polls.

As for the final debate, I thought it was clear that President Obama won the debate as it ended up playing much like the first debate except in reverse. President Obama was the one who was being aggressive and engaging his opponent and his positions, while Governor Romney was sitting back and playing it safe. However, the major difference with the first debate was that the third debate was not nearly as lopsided as the first. Additionally, since the debate focused on foreign-policy, it was largely expected that President Obama would have the advantage.

As we exit the debates, I believe the tally on who won the three debates was Obama 2, Romney 1. However, this is not like a baseball playoff series where it is a best-of-three. In fact, all the debates are NOT created equal – the first one is clearly the most important and the winner of that debate is generally seen to have won the debate series unless something extraordinary happens in the last two debates. This is especially true in this instance when Governor Romney won the first debate so convincingly. The final reason that this debate was less significant was due to the fact that it was also the least watched. The debate occurred on a Monday night opposite Monday Night Football and Game 7 of the NLCS baseball playoffs. While it still drew more viewers than the two sporting events, it was still watched less than either of the first two debates.

As for the debate itself, I think that Governor Romney's strategy to play it safe was an interesting one when considering what was on the line. Since I have been doing this analysis, Romney has consistently trailed in the Electoral College math and while his first debate win helped close this gap, the president has consistently remained in the lead. Also, except for one week immediately after the first debate, President Obama has remained above the magic number of 270. If Romney had a good final debate and was able to beat the President on foreign-policy, it very well could have tipped the scales in Romney's favor. It makes me wonder if the ending of the second debate made Governor Romney a little gun shy about attacking the President on foreign-policy. You might remember towards the end of the second debate a question came up about Libya. I believe that President Obama’s response was one of the strongest from either candidate in all three of the debates as he looked at Governor Romney in the eyes and said he took it personal when people he asked to serve were killed and that he found it offensive when people used those events for political gain. It seemed like Romney backed down a bit and became less aggressive in that second debate after that exchange. There may have been a carryover effect into the third debate as Governor Romney tried to avoid a similar situation by not attacking the president and his foreign policies.

Now we enter the final 10 days of the campaign as both candidates attempt to finish strong. I will try and do a midweek report this week and in doing so, I'll also take a look at the status of the Senate races and which party has the upper hand in controlling the upper chamber. Finally, look for my report next Saturday as I will be giving my prediction on both the presidential race and the Senate races.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

State of the Race – October 20 (Why a Close Election May Mean an Obama Loss)


Last week we saw that the first debate yielded Governor Romney a large boost as he was able to cut dramatic-ally into President Obama's lead in the Electoral College vote. Since then, we have had another presidential debate, although much of the state polling that was done may not yet reflect any effects that the second debate will have. Since last week's report, there have been 87 polls done in 31 states; including 48 polls in the 11 battleground states I have identified (CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NC, 0H, PA, VA & WI). With only 2 1/2 weeks to Election Day, here's where we stand:


Safe
Likely
Lean
Total
Obama
146
71
54
271
Romney
115
76
44
235
Tossup



32

If you want to see how I arrived at these categories, I would encourage you to review the first “State of the Race” post I did on August 11 which can be found here. The photo above gives a visual breakdown of which side each states fall on. For a list of which states fall in which categories, I provide the following chart:


Safe
Likely
Lean
Obama
CA, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT
CT, MI, MN, NJ, NM, OR, WA
IA, OH, PA, WI
Romney
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, ND, OK, TX, UT, WV, WY
AZ, GA, IN, MO, NE, SC, SD, TN
FL, NC
Tossup
CO, NV, NH, VA

Here are the changes from last week: Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington moved from “Safe” Obama to “Likely” Obama; Pennsylvania from “Likely” Obama to “Lean” Obama; Ohio from “Tossup” to “Lean” Obama; New Hampshire from “Lean” Obama to “Tossup”; and Georgia and South Dakota from “Safe” Romney to “Likely” Romney. Ironically, all of the movement this week except for Ohio was towards the middle which suggests that this race continues to tighten. However, Ohio moving from “Tossup” to “Lean” Obama does put the president back above the magic number of 270.

All in all, these results seem to indicate that President Obama has stopped Governor Romney's momentum and the close race I expected is getting ready to go down to the wire. Last week, I wrote about the inherent advantage that the president has with the electoral map, but this week I want to point out why a close election may point to a loss for the incumbent president. The reason why the map actually could cause the Obama campaign some concern is the fact that he is trying to do what has only been done one other time: win reelection with fewer electoral votes than he received in his first election.

In 2008, President Obama received 365 electoral votes. In doing so, he won some states that had been considered safely Republican over the last several presidential elections, including Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. He also was able to pick up one electoral vote from Nebraska due to the apportionment system that they use. Except for North Carolina in 1976, none of these states had voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory in 1964. Since the 2008 election, it has become apparent that Virginia and to a lesser degree, North Carolina have become swing states that the Democrats can compete in, but Indiana has gone back to being the red state it was prior to Obama's victory in 2008. Additionally, President Obama has been unable to put any states he lost in 2008 into play. Previously, the states that had been identified where he had lost, but might have been able to put in play were states like Arizona and Missouri. While this was discussed in theory, it appears the Obama campaign never tried seriously to go after these states and they remain safely in Romney's column.

That brings me to the history of President Obama is trying to make. There was only one occasion in US history where an incumbent president running for reelection for a second term ended up winning his reelection bid but received fewer electoral votes in his reelection than he did in his initial election and that instance deserves a large asterix. The occasion was 1916 when Woodrow Wilson was reelected with 277 electoral votes after receiving 435 electoral votes in his initial election in 1912. (It should be noted that FDR received fewer electoral votes in his third and fourth reelection, but that was obviously a unique circumstance and FDR did receive more electoral votes in his second election than in his first.) Wilson's reelection also has a major caveat to it as well. The circumstances that Wilson was facing for his reelection were very different than what he had faced in his first election in 1912. That's because in 1912 former president Teddy Roosevelt decided to run as a third-party candidate against the incumbent Republican president, William Howard Taft. This resulted in the Republican vote being widely split between Roosevelt and Taft and allowing Wilson to cruise to an easy Electoral College victory despite the fact that combined Roosevelt and Taft received more popular votes than Wilson did.

An argument could be made that President Obama's victory in 2008 should come with an asterix as well. This is due to the fact that the Obama/McCain race was an anomaly because Obama had foregone public financing while McCain accepted it. It was well documented in 2008 that Obama made his choice because he knew he would be able to out raise Senator McCain and therefore had a significant advantage in his campaign war chest and he used that advantage to advertise and campaign in many more states. As a result, McCain was unable to keep up and Obama was able to put states in play that he might not have been able to had the campaigns been evenly funded.

Whatever the reason for the size of Obama's victory in 2008, it's clear as we are this close to the election that he will be unable to repeat that number of electoral votes in 2012. As a result, President Obama is trying to do what has only happened once in our history – win a reelection with fewer electoral votes than he had previously. While this may seem like a rare occurrence that makes reelection for the president difficult, I'm reminded that just 12 years ago we all thought that we would never see an election again where one candidate won the popular vote but the other won the vote in the Electoral College. As such, just because it is a rare occurrence historically, doesn't mean it can't happen again.

Finally, I wanted to share my thoughts regarding the second presidential debate which occurred this week. Last week, I wrote “The pseudo-town hall format that will be used will not allow for the same kind of aggressive style that was used so effectively by Governor Romney in the first debate, so it will be interesting to watch and see how both candidates adjust as I think both will want to be aggressive, but they won't want to come off as attacking the citizens that are chosen to ask the questions.” Boy was I wrong! In many ways, both were overly aggressive and I agree with many commentators I heard afterwards who suggested that this style probably actually hurt both of them with undecided voters and it may point to a reason why the race continues to tighten. Clearly, the president was trying to overcompensate for his lackluster performance in the first debate and was very aggressive in going after Governor Romney, and when met with this aggression, Romney showed that he was not going to back down. As a result, I viewed it as a draw with possibly a slight edge going towards President Obama. I know there were many who thought the president won the debate, and while I don't necessarily disagree, I viewed it as a draw because I don't think either candidate did a good job of trying to appeal to any undecided voters.

This Monday night is the third and final debate and the focus is to be on foreign-policy. For those of you who know my thoughts on presidential elections, foreign-policy in my opinion is always the most important. While some people will look at the economy when deciding who to vote for and others may look to a variety of social issues, I simply remind you that foreign-policy is the one area where the Constitution gives primary authority to the executive branch. A president has limited say on economic issues and social issues, as he is bound to Congress and its whims. However, with foreign-policy the president is both the chief diplomat for our country and its Commander-in-Chief. As such, it is the area he can have the greatest influence on. So if for some reason you are still undecided, I would strongly urge you to watch this debate. Since the debate does occur at the beginning of the week, I'm hopeful that the state polls will be up-to-date next week and will include any effect that the third and final debate has.