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March 7th, 2014:

Friday random ten: We’re not an American band

So after reading about Bruce Springsteen’s tour down under, I went looking for songs by non-American artists in my collection.

1. Dancing Queen – ABBA (Sweden)
2. Shoot To Thrill – AC/DC (Australia)
3. Full Force Gale – Van Morrison (Ireland)
4. Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus? – Charo (Spain)
5. Distant Early Warning – Rush (Canada)
6. Everybody’s Everything – Santana (Mexico)
7. Tive Razao – Seu Jorge (Brazil)
8. Oy Hanukkah – Theodore Bikel (Austria)
9. Village Green Preservation Society – Kate Rusby (England)
10. Royals – Lorde (New Zealand)

The inspiration for this was seeing the video of Springsteen’s awesome cover of “Royals”, which he performed in Lorde’s hometown of Auckland and which made her all verklempt, as one would be. Here’s a video of it, if you haven’t seen it:

The way he sings it, it sounds like something he could have written. If there’s anything cooler than having a song you wrote covered by Bruce Springsteen, I don’t know what it is.

Davis and South Texas

I have three things to say about this.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Democrats are banking on the Hispanic vote as a key part of their strategy for finding a way back into state office, but Sen. Wendy Davis lost several heavily Latino South Texas counties to a little-known rival on her way to securing the Democratic nod for governor.

Republicans fighting for the Hispanic vote were quick to crow over Davis’ second-place showing to Ray Madrigal of Corpus Christi in select counties in and near the Rio Grande Valley.

Democrats, meanwhile, stressed that Davis got more than four times as many total votes in those counties as Attorney General Greg Abbott, the GOP nominee, even though he did better than his primary rivals. She also bested Madrigal in one of the larger Valley counties, Cameron.

Davis and other Democrats said voters will see a sharp distinction that will work to their favor in the November general election.

[…]

Experts differed on how much the primary election results should worry Democrats.

In five South Texas counties taken together, Davis did worse overall than Democrat Bill White, the former Houston mayor, did in a larger primary field in 2010, Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones said.

White, whose opponents included foes with Hispanic surnames, received 58 percent of the vote in the five border counties – Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb and Zapata – in the 2010 Democratic primary. Davis got 47 percent in those five counties Tuesday, coming in ahead of Madrigal in Cameron and behind him in the rest.

“Davis was facing a candidate who did nothing more than pay his filing fee, for all intents and purposes,” Jones said. White’s foes included two with Hispanic surnames and big-spending hair-care magnate Farouk Shami.

Still, Davis got nearly 38,000 total votes in those five counties, while lower GOP turnout meant Abbott got less than 8,900 altogether – with zero votes recorded in Starr and Zapata counties on the secretary of state’s website.

“I don’t think Abbott can claim he did especially well in South Texas,” Jones said. “It’s more that for Wendy Davis to mount anything approaching a competitive campaign in November, she needs voters in the Valley to turn out in higher-than-normal numbers and to vote for her. What these results show is she has quite a bit of work to still do in South Texas.”

University of Texas-Pan American political scientist Jerry Polinard did not see a big problem in the results for Davis, suggesting Madrigal’s surname was part of it: “He certainly didn’t spend money to get the vote out.”

Polinard suggested the results probably would move Davis and her surrogates “to spend a lot of time in South Texas try to generate that vote.”

1. When I saw the headline I got all prepared to do a bunch of number crunching, but the story hits the high points of what I was going to say. I’ll add that while Bill White did better overall in these counties, he didn’t do all that well, generally getting in the 50-60% range, and in a couple of counties like Maverick he did worse than Davis (31% for White, 55% for Davis). As for Abbott, in many South Texas and Rio Grande Valley counties overall turnout in the GOP primary declined from 2010; Hidalgo was the main exception. So it’s not like he has anything to brag about.

2. It should also be noted that White, who unlike Davis was in a competitive primary against an opponent that was spending millions of dollars, spent a lot of money campaigning for the primary. His eight day report from 2010 shows he spent $2.7 million. Davis, who has been focused on Greg Abbott and November pretty much since Day One, wasn’t spending money on GOTV activities. Add up her Senate account, her Governor account, and her Victory Committee account, and it’s less than $1 million. Throw in Battleground Texas, and it’s a bit more than $1.2 million, still less than half of what White spent. He needed to focus on the March race and she didn’t. It’s not that complicated.

3. As Campos notes, Latino voters do exist elsewhere in Texas. We don’t have precinct or State Rep district data yet, so I can’t do that level of analysis, but I will note that in the big urban counties where a lot of Latinos live – Harris (Davis got 92%), Dallas (92%), Bexar (85%), and Tarrant (94%) – she did pretty well. El Paso (69%) was on the lower end, but still a solid majority. Obviously, no vote or voter should be taken for granted, and I’m sure she and her team will do a ton of work in South Texas and the Valley, but that work is for November. I don’t think March has any lessons for us that we haven’t already learned. See also this Trib story and Texpatriate.

The Trib explains itself on its polls

Good for them.

Wrong!!!

The ongoing challenge of public polling is to reconcile popular expectations about what polls “mean” at election time with our own desire to provide the public with information about mass opinion on politics and policy. We begin with the realization that polling results provide an account of public attitudes only at the time the data are collected. However, publicly released polls tend to be taken as a prediction of what will happen on Election Day. As much as we would like this to be the case, and as pleased as we are when the polling results comport with the eventual reality, we don’t, in the end, view the results in this way.

A situation with (a) a lot of unformed or non-existent opinions of candidates and (b) active campaigning in multicandidate races with no distinguishing party labels in a notoriously low-turnout election was, and is, likely to create volatility in results and uncertainty about the composition of the electorate. This volatility, particularly in the weeks leading up to an election, as voters slowly begin to pay attention, is why campaigns invest in daily tracking polls if they can afford them. As several candidates found out Tuesday, the past, even the relatively recent past, is always an imperfect guide to the present.

In our own polling, to assess the state of the primary elections, we screened “likely voters” from the larger sample of registered voter respondents — people who told us that they intended to vote in a particular party’s primary and, in addition, said that they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in politics and had voted in “every” or “almost every” one of the past few elections. Even among this group, many expressed no candidate preference in a number of races. With the election just around the corner, we forced them to make a decision — asking which candidate would get their vote in each race if “don’t know” was not among the options. In sum, we reported the results for people who seemed to be “likely” primary voters at some distance from the actual primary election. This screen, like any screen, is arbitrary, but has, in the past, been particularly robust and, maybe even more important to us, is purposefully agnostic about the eventual composition of the electorate.

As someone who has criticized that poll and called on Henson and Shaw to do an after action review on it, I commend them for doing so. I’m sure this has not been a fun week for them.

Now that they have undertaken this job, let me make a couple of suggestions to them. I don’t see why the screening process for primary voters needs to be complicated. We have a very good idea of who the likely voters in a primary election are – the people who have voted in the primaries before. Look at the turnout levels for the last three primaries – they’re in a pretty tight band for both parties. It’s the same thing for Houston’s odd-year elections. Pre-screen for those who have voted in two of the last three such elections – which is to say, do what the campaigns themselves do – and be done with it. Sure, the electorate gets expanded sometimes – 2008 for the primaries, 2010 for Republicans in the general; Democrats are working to make 2014 be like that for themselves – but you’ll be right more often than not, and in the exceptional years you’ll very likely have some external data telling you that this time it’s different. If that’s not easily done within the confines of their YouGov panel model, well, maybe that should tell them something.

The other thing I’d suggest is that it’s OK for “I don’t know” to be the majority answer. A poll result that said Kesha Rogers led David Alameel by nine percent to seven percent, with 76% undecided, is admittedly unsexy and unlikely to get picked up with Politico and the Washington Post, but it’s also unlikely to result in you writing a mea culpa after being roundly mocked for your crap-ass predictions. Seems like the better choice to me.

They reinforce that point later:

Additionally, what these tables don’t show is how uninformed and underdeveloped the attitudes of the electorate were in the final weeks of the campaign — an element that was sure to create volatility (that is, broad but potentially uneven changes in preferences that affect the totals for the candidates). Additional data elaborate the point: About a fifth of GOP voters for each of the lieutenant governor candidates did not register either a positive or negative opinion toward their preferred candidate. In addition, roughly half of the potential GOP primary voters surveyed in the attorney general and comptroller races originally stated that they hadn’t thought enough about the race to form an opinion. This is almost certainly why Debra Medina polled so high among people forced to choose: They recognized her name.

The Democratic side of the ledger was even more disheartening for anyone who wants to assume the existence of a large, engaged and informed electorate. U.S. Senate candidate Kesha Rogers’ strong initial polling — driven in large part by African American respondents who, in the end, didn’t vote — was also buoyed by the roughly three-quarters of our respondents who initially said that they had no opinion in that primary. (As with the Republicans, those who initially chose no one were then asked which way they leaned.)

There was a ton of self-loathing on the Democratic side at the new of Rogers leading that poll. I guess we can take a small measure of comfort at the news that despite the coverage and the millions spent, a bunch of Republicans had no idea whom to support in these races. Of course, none of their choices would be as offensive to them as Rogers is to us, so it’s not quite the same. Be that as it may, this is what I’m talking about above. By Henson and Shaw’s own admission, these voters are highly likely to be swayed by late campaign activity. If so, why would you want to push them for an answer when you know it’s very much subject to change? If this experience doesn’t let that lesson sink in, I don’t know what would. I’m glad they’re reviewing their approach, but I think they ought to keep thinking about it.

We may still have Steve Stockman to kick around

I’m not sure if the right expression for this is “Praise the Lord!” or “Lord help us”.

Steve Stockman doing his best Joe Cocker impersonation

Rep. Steve Stockman is down for now, but not out forever, he says.

In his first interview since Tuesday night’s primary defeat to Sen. John Cornyn, the Clear Lake Republican said he’s not sure what’s next– but it could very well include another shot at office.

“We had fun, and we’ll probably do statewide again,” Stockman said off the House floor.

Stockman pinned the loss on negative ads, and lack of support from tea party groups which distanced themselves from him. He didn’t address questions that dogged his campaign over his background, allegations of campaign finance irregularities, and his absences from the campaign trail and House votes.

He said he wouldn’t have run the way he did if he didn’t think he was going to win.

“It was unfortunate — a lot of outside groups didn’t think it could be won, but clearly, looking at it now, it could have,” he said.

[…]

Asked if he would have done anything differently, Stockman said he would have quit his job as a congressman.

“I probably would have stepped down and run full time. I was doing full time congressman, full time campaign manager, and full time candidate. You just get spread so thin,” he said.

Oh, I think he shouldn’t change a thing. Why waste all that talent by acting normally? Texpatriate has more.

County enforcement of game room regulations halted for now

Oops.

A quest by the county and city to crack down on illegal game rooms has hit a legal roadblock after a civil court judge granted a temporary restraining order barring Harris County from enforcing strict, new regulations.

The city had been poised to piggyback on the county’s rules under a new state law. Instead, its lawyers will join forces with the County Attorney’s Office to defend them.

At the request of a game room owner, state District Court Judge Elaine Palmer granted the restraining order late Friday, the day before the county’s regulations were set to take effect. A hearing has been set for March 14.

Lawyers for Altaf Makanojiya, 31, a game room owner and supplier of video poker machines known as “eight-liners,” sought the temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against regulations Harris County Commissioners Court adopted in December for establishments housing six or more video poker machines.

[…]

Eight-liners are legal in Texas, but game room operations that award more than a few dollars in prizes are not. Officials for years have condemned the establishments as hotbeds for illegal gambling, armed robberies and other criminal activity.

Under the regulations in question, game rooms operators must obtain permits, pay a $1,000 annual fee, shut down between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and are banned from requiring a membership for entry, a practice officials say keeps police officers out. New game rooms must be located at least 1,500 feet from schools, churches and residential neighborhoods.

See here for the background, and here for a recent Chron story about the city/county enforcement agreement. Houston adopted an ordinance regulating game rooms six years ago, which among other things had the effect of causing some game room operators to relocate outside city limits. That made Harris County lobby the Legislature to pass a law giving it enforcement capabilities, which it got last year. The county’s new regs allowed for cities to opt in and team up with them on enforcement, which is what Houston did. Now we wait for the judge to sort it out before that goes into effect. I personally see nothing nefarious about the new regulations, but you never know what will happen with a lawsuit like this.