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First impressions of the 2014 results

My initial thoughts, for what they are worth.

– Let me begin by saying that for all the criticism I had of the UT/Texas Trib’s polling and the skepticism of Internet-sample methodology, they were fairly accurate in the end. In particular, the last YouGov result just about nailed it. I still think what they do is more alchemy than anything else, and their subsample results often look ridiculous, but however they did it, they got it right and they deserve credit for it.

– I’m sure we’re about to be deluged with critical stories about Battleground Texas and public doubts about their future viability – the Trib and the Observer are already on it – but I have to ask, given the way this election went nationally, why they are more deserving of scorn than anyone else. In particular, how did they do any worse than the DCCC, DSCC, and DGA? The DSCC’s fabled “Bannock Street Project”, which was supposed to save the Senate by increasing Democratic turnout in battleground states, was a spectacular dud. Democratic candidates for Governor lost in such deep red states as Illinois and Maryland. Hell, the chair of the DGA, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who pooped on Wendy Davis’ campaign a few months ago, failed to get a majority of the votes in his own election. BGTX doesn’t have much to brag about today, and I have no doubt they could have done plenty of things better. But I know a lot of people – friends of mine – who worked their tails off for BGTX and the Davis campaign, and I will not demean the work they did. If you want to criticize them, go right ahead, but please be specific about your complaints. I’m not going to pay attention to any generalized rants.

– Davis didn’t come close to matching Bill White’s vote total, and no statewide Dem reached 40% of the vote. That’s the harsh truth, and there’s no sugarcoating it. The funny thing is, though, for all the talk about turnout being down, it wasn’t actually Democratic turnout that was down. Here’s a comparison of the vote totals for the Democrats running for the top four offices over the last four non-Presidential cycles:

2002 2006 2010 2014 ======================================================= Governor 1,819,798 1,310,337 2,106,395 1,832,254 Lt Gov 2,082,281 1,617,490 1,719,202 1,810,720 Atty Gen 1,841,359 1,599,069 1,655,859 1,769,943 Comptroller 1,476,976 1,585,362 N/A 1,739,308

Davis didn’t peel crossover votes away from Abbott the way White did from Rick Perry, but beyond that I don’t see a step back. If anything, it’s an inch or two forward, though of course that still leaves a thousand miles to go. Where turnout did decline was on the Republican side. Greg Abbott received about 360,000 fewer votes than he did in 2010. Given the whipping that Republicans were laying on Dems across the country, one might wonder how it is they didn’t do any better than they did here.

One thing I’m seeing, and I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow, is that some people seem to think that because Davis got about 265K fewer votes than Bill White that means that overall Democratic turnout was down by that amount. In a word, this is baloney. White drew the votes of some 300K people that otherwise voted Republican. Their presence in his tally was nice for him, and would have been critical in a different year, but they had nothing to do with Democratic turnout. I am at a loss for why people are making that claim, and why they are overlooking or ignoring the gains in the races just below the Governor’s race, where a coordinated turnout effort would have an effect. Like I said, more about this tomorrow.

– Harris County wasn’t any prettier than the state was, and here in Harris there were declines in the vote totals of both parties. I’ve been looking at the statewide results more closely to see where the gains and losses were, and my initial impression is that the other big counties did move forward in ways Harris did not. The mail program was a success, but it seems clear that it mostly shifted behavior. If there was a net gain, in terms of votes we wouldn’t have had at all without the mail program, it means that in person turnout efforts were that much less successful. If we’re going to be introspective, that’s the place to start.

– All that said, if I’m newly-elected Harris County DA Devon Anderson, I’d take a few minutes to be concerned about the fact that I have to be on the ballot again in 2016. Consider this: By my calculation, the average Republican judicial candidate who had a Democratic opponent received 359,759 votes. The average Dem judicial candidate got 297,311. Anderson received 354,098 while Kim Ogg got 311,094. To put it another way, Ogg got crossover votes, which stands both her and Anderson in contrast to Pat Lykos in 2008 and Mike Anderson in 2012. Frankly, if she’s up for it, I’d tell Kim Ogg to keep running and start fundraising now for 2016. Assuming the patterns from the last two Presidential years hold here, she’d have a real shot at it.

– Along the same lines, of the five legislative seats the Dems lost (three in the House, one each in Congress and the Senate), HDs 117 and 144 should flip back in 2016, and if I were Pete Gallego I’d keep running for CD23 as well. (If he doesn’t want to run any more, allow me to be the first to hop on the Mary González bandwagon.) If Susan Criss can’t win HD23, which had been trending red for some time, I doubt anyone can. As for SD10, it’s not up again till 2018, but for the record, Libby Willis basically hit the Bill White number, which suggests she drew a non-trivial number of crossovers. Someone ought to take another crack at that one next time around but bear in mind this was always going to be a tough hold. I strongly suspect that if Wendy Davis had decided to run for re-election instead that we’d still be mourning her defeat.

– One prize Dems did claim was knocking off longtime Bexar County DA Susan Reed. Republicans claimed a victory over DA Craig Watkins in Dallas, where he was his own worst enemy. I refer you to Grits for more on that.

– Other results of interest: You already know about the Denton fracking ban. The Katy and Lone Star College bond initiatives passed. Austin Council Member Council Member Mike Martinez and attorney Steve Adler are in a runoff for Mayor; other Council race results, the first single member district elections in Austin, are here. And finally, Old Town Tomball repealed its ban on alcohol sales. Pour one out, y’all.

– Finally, a word on the matter of the efficacy of campaign ads, in particular negative ads. Yesterday morning after we dropped off the kids at school, Tiffany mentioned to me that Olivia’s understanding of the Governor’s race was that if Abbott won, there would be more standardized tests, which did not please her. “He wants to test four-year-olds!” she said. “That’s just wack!” I will simply note that at no time this year did I ever discuss the Abbott and Davis pre-k plans with her, and leave it at that.

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10 Comments

  1. John says:

    Charles

    how can you not see this as a major step back for the Dems (I voted for Wendy too)? Just too look at total number of votes and not % gained is very disingenuous. The population of Texas increased 20% from 2000-2010

    https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/popdat/Census2010.shtm

    Yet comparing 2002 to 2014 the Dems picked up a whopping 13K votes in Governor race and lost ground in AG and Lt Gov. No statewide D broke 40% there is absolutely nothing good for the party after this election

    Regarding Battleground Texas, they think it is like Facebook where the more “likes” or “friends” they get online will translate into more votes. As I wrote a few weeks ago I went to West Gray to early vote on a Saturday and ABSOLUTELY nobody was there holding a Wendy Davis sign. I think comparing and focusing on these online metrics of people contacted is great, but it is easy for someone to “like” something from their phone or laptop. BGTX failed miserably and I could see them folding up shop within 2 yrs. Yes now everyone is going to say Julian is coming back to run but he needs to get back here soon and not stay in DC to build his brand in the state. Not just in Austin and San Antonio.

  2. J Cantu says:

    Any estimates/guess how many votes were suppressed by the Voter ID rulings.

  3. Adam Haun says:

    I noticed something interesting in the CNN exit poll crosstabs:

    http://www.cnn.com/election/2014/results/state/TX#governor
    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2010/results/polls/#TXG00p1

    For people under 45, the Davis-Abbott vote was a toss-up. This was similar to 2010, although White did a bit better with 18-29s. But the 45-65+ folks were much more Republican this year.

    Age Davis%-Abbot% White%-Perry%
    18-29 49-49 51-46
    30-44 49-47 48-49
    45-64 32-67 41-57
    65+ 29-69 36-62

    Also, if the sampling in the polls reflects the actual electorate, the younger groups voted more in this election:

    % of Sample
    Age 2014 2010
    18-29 14 9
    30-44 27 23
    45-64 41 48
    65+ 19 20

  4. adam smith says:

    Dallas Democrats basically voted straight D and for Susan Hawk. Basically the east dallas democrats had it in for Craig Watkins if you look at it on a micro level. Precincts that Wendy won Craig lost. 64k dollar question is does Susan Hawk become an indy, or switch parties for the 3rd time? If she stays in the GOP she will get beat in 2018 unless the Dems agree to not challenge her.

  5. […] Jolly Politics, Brains & Eggs (Parts I, II, III, IV), Eye on Williamson, Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist all have […]

  6. Steven Houston says:

    “All that said, if I’m newly-elected Harris County DA Devon Anderson, I’d take a few minutes to be concerned about the fact that I have to be on the ballot again in 2016. Consider this: By my calculation, the average Republican judicial candidate who had a Democratic opponent received 359,759 votes. The average Dem judicial candidate got 297,311. Anderson received 354,098 while Kim Ogg got 311,094. To put it another way, Ogg got crossover votes, which stands both her and Anderson in contrast to Pat Lykos in 2008 and Mike Anderson in 2012. Frankly, if she’s up for it, I’d tell Kim Ogg to keep running and start fundraising now for 2016. Assuming the patterns from the last two Presidential years hold here, she’d have a real shot at it.”

    Ogg announced she would run for the office immediately after Mike Anderson passed away, well over a year ago (far, far sooner than most such candidates announce for the position). In that time, she was relentless in throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Devon Anderson, hiring disgraced yellow journalists to investigate the woman/office, making deals with disgraced republican elements voters tossed out, and pandering to various groups to garner votes. All that netted her about 10k more votes than most of the judges running from her party despite her own campaign coffers substantially larger than theirs. As such, she beat the undervote in uncontested judicial elections by about 15k votes while Anderson beat her by over 43k votes.

    To put it in perspective, Anderson got more votes in Harris County than governor elect Abbott or Lt governor elect Patrick while barely running a campaign until the last few months against a candidate hitting the ground running for over a year. In two years, none of Ogg’s surprises are going to carry as much weight yet Anderson will have a wealth of material regarding Ogg. That “R” next to Anderson’s name is not going away (sorry Big Jolly) and her people will have a better game plan next time so unless your party wants to lose it again, they will pick a better candidate than her or Oliver (who received many more votes than Ogg did when he ran two years ago despite no one thinking he was worth a damn, albeit in a bigger election year).

  7. Mainstream says:

    I expected Ogg to run stronger, with crossover supporters from the libertarian elements of the GOP interested in marijuana policy reform and from those close to former DA Pat Lykos. She would likely run stronger in a presidential year, but her attack in the closing days of the campaign suggesting Anderson’s office was weak in prosecuting the woman who killed the officer backfired badly and may leave a permanent impression in voters that Ogg lacks the right temperament for the office.

  8. Steven Houston says:

    Mainstream, Anderson made conscious choices to not run ads based on many of Ogg’s failures over the years as they seemed beneath the kind of campaign she wanted to run. As dirty as some claim her responses were to Ogg’s negative ads, they were NOTHING compared to what could have been run and may well be run in the future if need be, albeit by a third party to distance as needed. Ogg’s choice decisions at the city, other choice decisions when given the political appointment to Crime Stoppers, and even as an assistant DA were all on the table.

    Now she has damaged her ability to run in the future while bolstering her GOP opponent. The Lykos crowd that were promised corner offices if Ogg was elected are now discredited to the larger GOP base as are their shills like Jolly so they will be less likely to sway anyone in future elections and Ogg’s own beliefs in thinking she would have been able to demand local police agencies march to her tune did not set well with folks from either party. In a county with so many fine possible candidates to run for judge positions and the DA’s office, many independent voters or marginal party supporters would love to vote for someone without so much baggage but none of the better candidates are willing to invest the time and energy to kiss up to the king makers first and then the voters.

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