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Precinct analysis: Texas Congressional districts

From Daily Kos:

Texas’s GOP-drawn congressional map was designed to create 24 safely red seats and 11 safely Democratic districts, with only the 23rd District in the western part of the state being truly competitive. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state 57-41 and won those 24 red seats by double digits, while Barack Obama easily carried the 11 Democratic districts; the 23rd backed Romney 51-48.

Things were a lot more interesting in 2016, with Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton by a smaller 52.5-43.5 margin, the closest presidential election in Texas in decades. Clinton won all the Obama districts, as well as the 23rd and two solidly Romney seats, the 7th and 32nd. However, the GOP still holds all the districts that Romney won in 2012, while Democrats have all the Obama/Clinton districts. The map at the top of this post, which shows each district as equally sized, illustrates all this, with the three Romney/Clinton districts standing out in pink.

We’ll start with a look at Texas’s 23rd District, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio and went from 51-48 Romney to 50-46 Clinton. However, the swing wasn’t quite enough for Democrats downballot. Republican Will Hurd narrowly unseated Democrat Pete Gallego in the 2014 GOP wave, and he won their expensive rematch by a similarly tight 48-47 margin.

Surprisingly, two other Texas Republicans have now found themselves sitting in seats Clinton won. Romney easily carried the 7th, located in the Houston area, by a wide 60-39 spread, but the well-educated seat backed Clinton by a narrow 48.5-47.1. Republican Rep. John Culberson still decisively turned back a challenge from a perennial candidate 56-44, and it remains to be seen if Democrats will be able to field a stronger contender next time—or whether the GOP’s weakness at the top of the ticket was a one-time phenomenon due solely to Trump.

The 32nd in the Dallas area also swung wildly from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. However, Democrats didn’t even field an opponent against longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, a former head of the NRCC who’s capable of raising as much money as he needs to in order to win. This is another well-educated seat where we’ll need to see if Democrats will be able to take advantage of Trump’s weaknesses, or if The Donald’s 2016 problems don’t hurt the GOP much downballot in future years.

Seven other Republican-held seats also moved to the left by double digits. The closest result came in Rep. Kenny Marchant’s 24th District in the Dallas-Forth Worth suburbs, which Trump won just 51-45 after Romney cruised to a 60-38 win four years earlier. Marchant beat a penniless opponent 56-39, so this district could also wind up on Democratic watch lists.

They mention a few other districts in which Clinton exceeded Obama’s numbers by a significant amount; I’ll get to that in a minute. I’ve discussed CD07 and CD32 before. We know that while Clinton carried CD07, it was largely due to Republican crossovers, as the average judicial race clocked in at a 56.5% to 43.5%b advantage for Trump. I can now make a similar statement about CD32, as I have been working my way through the canvass data in Dallas County. (CD32 reaches into Collin County as well, but I don’t have canvass data for it. The large majority of the district is in Dallas County, however.) Hillary Clinton won the Dallas County portion of CD32 by ten thousand votes, basically 127K to 117K. No other Democrat in Dallas County carried CD32, however. Looking at the judicial races there, Trump generally led by 20K to 25K votes, so the crossover effect was significant. The closest any Dem came to matching Clinton in CD32 was two-term Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who trailed in the Dallas portion of CD32 by a 125K to 116K margin.

I may go back later and look at CD24, about forty percent of which is in Dallas County, and I will definitely look at CD23 when we have full statewide numbers. If you had told me that Clinton would carry CD23, I’d have been sure that Pete Gallego would reclaim the seat, but that didn’t happen. I’ve got to give credit to Rep. Will Hurd for that, though I doubt he will ever have an easy time of it going forward. As for the other districts, I’ll just say this: Back when we were all getting intoxicated by the alluringly tight poll numbers in Texas, I ran the numbers in every district to see what might happen if you adjusted the 2012 returns to reflect a 50-50 Presidential race. The short answer is that while several Congressional districts become a lot more competitive, none of them swing to majority Dem, even under those much more favorable circumstances. This is a testament to how effective that Republican gerrymander is, and a sobering reminder of how much ground there is to recover before we can make any gains. The 2016 Presidential numbers may tantalize, but they are illusory.

One more thing: The full 2016 Congressional numbers, along with the corresponding 2012 numbers, are here. Let me break them down a bit:


Trump up, Clinton down

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD01     71.6    72.2    27.5     25.3    +0.6    -2.2
CD04     74.0    75.4    24.8     21.8    +1.4    -3.0


Trump down, Clinton down

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD05     64.5    62.7    34.4     34.3    -1.8    -0.1
CD11     79.2    77.8    19.6     19.1    -1.4    -0.5
CD13     80.2    79.9    18.5     16.9    -0.3    -2.6
CD14     59.3    58.2    39.5     38.4    -1.1    -1.1
CD15     41.5    40.0    57.4     56.7    -1.5    -0.7
CD19     73.6    72.5    25.0     23.5    -1.1    -1.5
CD27     60.5    60.1    38.2     36.7    -0.4    -1.5
CD28     38.7    38.5    60.3     58.3    -0.2    -2.0
CD30     19.6    18.3    79.6     79.1    -1.3    -0.5
CD34     38.3    37.7    60.8     59.2    -0.6    -1.6
CD36     73.2    72.0    25.7     25.2    -1.2    -0.5

Trump down, Clinton up

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD02     62.9    52.4    35.6     43.1   -10.5    +7.5
CD03     64.3    54.8    34.2     40.6    -9.5    +6.4
CD06     57.9    54.2    40.8     41.9    -3.7    +1.1
CD07     59.9    48.5    38.6     47.1   -11.4    +8.5
CD08     77.0    72.7    21.7     23.9    -4.3    +2.2
CD09     21.1    18.0    78.0     79.3    -2.9    +1.3
CD10     59.1    52.3    38.8     43.2    -6.8    +4.4
CD12     66.8    62.9    31.7     32.7    -3.9    +1.0
CD16     34.5    27.2    64.2     67.9    -7.3    +3.7
CD17     60.4    56.3    37.7     38.8    -4.1    +1.1
CD18     22.8    20.0    76.1     76.5    -2.8    +0.4
CD20     39.7    34.3    58.9     61.0    -5.4    +2.1
CD21     59.8    52.5    37.9     42.5    -7.3    +4.6
CD22     62.1    52.1    36.7     44.2   -10.0    +7.5
CD23     50.7    46.4    48.1     49.7    -4.3    +1.6
CD24     60.4    50.7    38.0     44.5    -9.7    +6.5
CD25     59.9    55.1    37.8     40.2    -4.8    +2.4
CD26     67.6    60.9    30.7     34.4    -6.7    +3.7
CD29     33.0    25.4    65.9     71.1    -7.6    +5.2
CD31     59.6    53.5    38.3     40.8    -6.1    +2.5
CD32     57.0    46.6    41.5     48.5   -10.4    +7.0
CD33     27.1    23.7    72.0     72.9    -3.4    +0.9
CD35     34.6    30.5    63.0     64.1    -4.1    +1.1

You want to know why we’ll never get rid of Louie Gohmert? He represents CD01, one of two districts where Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s numbers. That’s why we’ll never get rid of Louie Gohmert. In the other districts, the main difference between 2016 and 2012 is the performance of third party candidates, especially Libertarian Gary Johnson. I don’t have vote totals, and the dKos spreadsheet doesn’t include the other candidates, so it’s hard to say exactly what happened at this time. For sure, in some of these districts, there was a shift towards the Democrats. I’ve noted before that the “true” level of Democratic support in CD07 was about 43.5%, but that’s still four or five points better than it was in 2012. When the full statewide numbers come out, probably next month, I’ll be able to do more detailed comparisons. For now, this is what we have. Look over the dKos data and see what you think.

O’Rourke and Dowd say they want to challenge Cruz in 2018

Rep. Beto O’Rourke upgraded his chances of running for the Senate in 2018 to “very likely”.

Rep. Beto O'Rourke

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Thursday he is all but certain to make a run for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat in 2018.

“I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of people around the state of Texas over the last six weeks, and I will tell you, I’m very encouraged,” he told The Texas Tribune on Thursday in an interview. “And I am continuing to listen to and talk to folks, and I’m just becoming more and more encouraged.”

“It’s very likely that I will run for Senate in 2018,” the El Paso Democrat added.

In a previous interview with the Tribune, O’Rourke kept the door open to a run in 2018 or 2020. O’Rourke just began his third term in the U.S. House and has promised to term-limit himself in that chamber.

The comments came just hours after former George W. Bush operative Matthew Dowd told the Tribune that he, too, was considering a bid against Cruz as an independent.

O’Rourke reacted to the Dowd news positively.

“Anyone who’s willing to take something like this on deserves our respect, and so I think that would be great,” he said. “I think the more voices, perspectives, experience that can be fielded, the better for Texas.”

See here for the background. I have to assume that O’Rourke’s greater interest in a 2018 run also indicates a lesser likelihood of Rep. Joaquin Castro challenging Cruz, but this story does not mention Castro. I think O’Rourke could be an interesting opponent for Cruz, if he has the resources to make himself heard, and it’s always possible that this midterm could be a lot less friendly to Republicans than the last two have been, but he would be a longshot no matter how you slice it. Given the fundraising he’d have to do to make a Senate run viable, I’m guessing we’d need to have a final decision to run by June at the latest, but we’ll see.

And as noted in that story, Rep. O’Rourke wasn’t the only person talking about a Cruz challenge.

Matthew Dowd, an Austin-based television news commentator and former George W. Bush strategist, is mulling an independent challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“I don’t know what I will do,” he told The Texas Tribune. “But I am giving it some thought, and I appreciate the interest of folks.”

Dowd said this has been a draft effort, as prominent members of both parties have approached him to run against Cruz.

[…]

The political strategist’s career tells the story of the past three decades of Texas politics. Dowd started in Democratic politics, including as a staffer to then-U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and then-Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

But Dowd eventually gravitated to then-Gov. Bush in the late 1990s, working on both of his presidential campaigns and for the Republican National Committee.

In 2007, Dowd publicly criticized Bush over the Iraq war.

More recently, Dowd used his social media and ABC News platforms to question the viability of the two-party system.

Now, he is considering a run of his own — against a man he once worked with on the 2000 Bush campaign.

“I don’t think Ted served the state well at all,” Dowd said. “He hasn’t been interested in being a U.S. senator from Texas. He’s been interested in national office since the day he got in.”

[…]

An independent run would be a heavy lift, but it would probably scramble the race far more than anyone could have anticipated a year ago. Dowd argued that an independent candidate could have a better shot than a challenge from either party.

“I think Ted is vulnerable, but I don’t think Ted’s vulnerable in the Republican primary, and I don’t think Ted is vulnerable to a Democrat in the general,” he said. “I think a Democrat can’t win in the state.”

Fundraising in an expensive state without the party apparatus would likely be a major obstacle as well.

“I actually believe money is less important now today than it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s going to take money and a lot of grassroots money, and it’s going to take people frustrated at Washington and frustrated about Ted.”

This is extremely hypothetical, so let’s not go too deep here. The first challenge is getting on the ballot as an independent, which requires collecting a sizable number of petition signatures from non-primary voters in a fairly short period of time. It can be done, as Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman demonstrated in 2006, but it takes a lot of resources. That can be money or volunteer energy, but at least one is needed. And say what you want about how important money is in today’s campaign world, the challenge remains getting your name and message out to people. If voters have no idea who you are on the ballot, they’re probably not going to vote for you. I guarantee you, if a poll were taken right now, maybe two percent of Texas voters will have any familiarity with the name “Matthew Dowd”. That’s what the money would be for, to get the voters to know who he is.

If – and it’s a big if, but we love to speculate about this sort of thing – Dowd can get the petition signatures to get on the ballot, then the actual election becomes pretty interesting. Dowd may have started life as a Democrat, but he’s much more closely identified with the Republicans, and he’s now a fairly prominent Trump critic. We could assume that his base is primarily the Republicans who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, which if you add up the Clinton crossovers and the increase in Gary Johnson’s vote total over 2012 works out to maybe a half million people. That’s not nothing, but it’s a long way from a win, and the voters who remain are the more committed partisans. On the assumption that Dowd would draw more heavily from Republicans, that would help boost Beto O’Rourke’s chances, but Ted Cruz starts out with a pretty big cushion. He can afford to lose a lot of votes before he faces any real peril. Even in the down year of 2006, Republicans were winning statewide races by 500K to a million votes. Having someone like Dowd in the race improves O’Rourke’s chances of winning, but a lot would have to happen for those chances to improve to something significant.

We’re getting way ahead of ourselves. If O’Rourke says he’s running, I believe him. If Dowd says he’s thinking about running, well, I believe he’s thinking about it. Wake me up when he does something more concrete than that.

Precinct analysis: Ogg v Anderson

Kim Ogg had the second highest vote total in Harris County this year. Let’s see how that looked at a more granular level.


Dist  Anderson      Ogg  Anderson%    Ogg%
==========================================
CD02   156,027  117,810     56.98%  43.02%
CD07   135,065  118,837     53.20%  46.80%
CD09    26,881  106,334     20.18%  79.82%
CD10    78,602   38,896     66.90%  33.10%
CD18    47,408  154,503     23.48%  76.52%
CD29    36,581   93,437     28.14%  71.86%
				
SBOE6  328,802  277,271     54.25%  45.75%
				
HD126   34,499   26,495     56.56%  43.44%
HD127   46,819   26,260     64.07%  35.93%
HD128   39,995   18,730     68.11%  31.89%
HD129   40,707   27,844     59.38%  40.62%
HD130   57,073   23,239     71.06%  28.94%
HD131    7,301   38,651     15.89%  84.11%
HD132   36,674   31,478     53.81%  46.19%
HD133   46,242   29,195     61.30%  38.70%
HD134   43,962   45,142     49.34%  50.66%
HD135   31,190   28,312     52.42%  47.58%
HD137    8,728   18,040     32.61%  67.39%
HD138   26,576   24,189     52.35%  47.65%
HD139   12,379   39,537     23.84%  76.16%
HD140    6,613   20,621     24.28%  75.72%
HD141    5,305   32,677     13.97%  86.03%
HD142   10,428   34,242     23.34%  76.66%
HD143    9,100   23,434     27.97%  72.03%
HD144   10,758   16,100     40.06%  59.94%
HD145   11,145   22,949     32.69%  67.31%
HD146   10,090   38,147     20.92%  79.08%
HD147   12,156   45,221     21.19%  78.81%
HD148   17,538   29,848     37.01%  62.99%
HD149   15,352   27,535     35.80%  64.20%
HD150   47,268   28,160     62.67%  37.33%
				
CC1     73,521  240,194     23.44%  76.56%
CC2    123,178  126,996     49.24%  50.76%
CC3    187,095  164,487     53.22%  46.78%
CC4    204,103  164,355     55.39%  44.61%
Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

Ogg received 696,955 votes, which is about 11K fewer than Hillary Clinton, while Anderson drew 588,464 votes, or 42.5K more than Donald Trump. I believe the differences can be accounted for as Ogg not getting as many crossovers as Clinton, while Anderson picked up most of the Gary Johnson supporters. Compare the results from the Presidential race and the judicial races to get a feel for this. In particular, compare the Presidential numbers in HD134 to the same numbers above. Ogg got 4,765 fewer votes than Clinton in the district. Add to that the 4,044 Johnson votes for a total of 8,809, and then observe that Anderson did 8,131 votes better than Trump did. Not exact, but pretty close. There are some fudge factors as well – some of those Johnson voters were straight party Libertarian, Ogg may have received some Jill Stein votes, etc. It’s good enough for a back-of-the-envelope approximation, is what I’m saying.

Outside of HD134, Ogg consistently did about two points better across the county, with slightly bigger gains in more Republican districts. Basically, Ogg is to 2016 what Adrian Garcia was to 2008. Garcia maintained his status as Democratic pacesetter in 2012, and I think Ogg will have the chance to do that in 2020 if she does a good job and accomplishes the goals she has laid out. We have seen plenty of examples of county officials and candidates for county office drawing bipartisan support, on both sides. We’ve also seen examples of failed incumbents getting turned out in emphatic fashion. Good performance is good politics in these elections.

I’ll look at the other countywide races in the coming days. Are there any particular questions you’d like me to explore with this data? Let me know.

A theory about third parties

Before I get to that theory, have you ever wondered about the people who vote straight ticket Libertarian or Green in Harris County? I got to wondering about them, because that’s the sort of thing that I think about at times like this. Here are the total numbers of such people, grouped by Presidential and non-Presidential years, going back to 2000:


Year  Total votes  SP Lib  SP Green   Lib%  Green%
==================================================
2000      995,631   1,935     4,503  0.19%   0.45%
2004    1,088,793   3,343            0.31%
2008    1,188,731   4,017            0.34%
2012    1,204,167   4,777     1,759  0.40%   0.15%
2016    1,336,985   8,781     4,577  0.66%   0.34%

2002      656,682   1,159     1,399  0.18%   0.21%
2006      601,186   3,052            0.51%
2010      798,995   2,506     1,110  0.31%   0.14%
2014      688,018   2,922     1,180  0.42%   0.17%

“SP Lib” is the total number of straight party Libertarian votes, and “SP Green” is the same for the Greens. “Lib%” and “Green%” are the share of these straight party votes to all votes cast in the county. If you look at the election result pages on the HarrisVotes.com website, you will see that my percentages are lower than the ones shown there. That’s because they calculate the percentage of these votes as a share of all straight-party votes cast, not a share of all votes. I did it this way to see what if any trend there was for Libertarian and Green voting overall. For comparison purposes, 30.01% of all votes in Harris county this year were straight ticket Republican, with 35.35% of all votes being straight-ticket Democratic.

As you can see, in the Presidential years the Libertarians had been slowly ticking upwards, with a bit of a jump this year, though the trend is more erratic in the off years. The spike in 2006 is odd, because the Libertarian candidate for Governor received only 0.61% of the vote that year. If you wanted to vote outside the two-party box for Governor in 2006, you had plenty of choices. The Greens weren’t officially on the ballot in 2004, 2006, or 2008, so there’s less of a trend to spot. I’d say they do better in or right after a year where they have a Presidential candidate who gets some attention. Whether any of this will hold next year is not something I’m going to speculate about at this time. My mantra for the next twelve to eighteen months is “conditions in 2018 will be different than they were in 2014 and 2010”, and leave it at that.

That brings me to my theory, which applies to low profile races – not President, not Senate, not Governor, sometimes not other races. I’m limiting myself to statewide contests here, since that’s where you get most of the third party candidates that an individual voter sees. In my case, there was a Green candidate for CD18, a Libertarian for SBOE, and nothing else below the state level. I believe that in these races, which this year would be the Railroad Commission and the two state courts, voters for third party candidates can be broadly sorted into one of three groups. The first group is the party faithful, which as we have just seen is a relatively small cohort. There are probably a few more people who vote L or G as a first choice but don’t vote straight ticket, but that’s still a small group even in the context of just third party voters. Most of the people voting third party in these races aren’t voting third party as a matter of course.

So who are they? Group Two I believe is people who normally vote for Rs or Ds but who refuse to vote for their candidate in this particular instance. That may be because the candidate of their party is too/not sufficiently liberal/conservative for them, because that candidate supports or opposes a specific thing that is of great importance to them, because the candidate has ethical baggage, or because they just don’t like that candidate for some reason. In these cases, they don’t want to vote for the candidate of the other party, so a third party it is. Gary Johnson obviously got a lot of these votes in the Presidential race, but the downballot exemplar for this one was the Railroad Commissioner race, where Libertarian Mark Miller got a bunch of newspaper endorsements for being the most qualified candidate running.

The thing is, I don’t think there are that many races like that. I think in a lot of these races, people just don’t know anything about any of the candidates. So if you’re someone who (say) generally votes Democratic but aren’t that committed to it and you’re looking at a race for the Court of Criminal Appeals, you may say to yourself “well, I know I don’t want to vote for the Republican, but I don’t know who any of these other people are, so I’ll just pick one and move on”. These people are my Group Three.

What that says to me first of all is that both Republicans and Democrats are leaving some votes on the table in these downballot races by not doing a better job of getting their candidates’ names out there. That’s not much of a concern for the Republicans, who continue to win by double-digit margins, but it could eventually matter. I see this as an extension of a problem that Democrats are increasingly having in their primaries, where candidates like RRC nominee Grady Yarbrough have won races by a combination of pseudo-name recognition and random chance because no one knows who the hell these people are. I have many wishes for Texas Democrats going forward, and high on my list is for the party and the donor class to take these downballot primaries seriously.

One possible exception to this may be for Latino candidates. Look at the top votegetters for each party: Supreme Court candidates Eva Guzman and Dori Contreras Garza. My hypothesis is that Latino voters in a Group Three situation will choose a Latino candidate, even possibly one from their non-preferred party, instead of just randomly picking someone. Again, this is in races where none of the candidates are known to the voters, and thus there could be a different outcome if people had more knowledge. If we ever get to that point, maybe we’ll see that difference.

Finally, I believe my theory is consistent with the Libertarian candidate almost always doing better than the Green candidate does in these situations, for the simple reason that the Libertarian candidate appears on the ballot above the Green candidate. If it’s true that some people just pick a name after having moved past the first two candidates, then it makes sense that the first candidate listed after those two would get a larger share.

Anyway, that’s my theory. I could be wrong, and I doubt anyone other than me had given this much thought. I’ll get back to the precinct analyses tomorrow. Let me know what you think about this.

Precinct analysis: Hillary in Harris County

Let’s get started with the precinct data, shall we? Here’s a Chron story from the day after the election about how things looked overall in the county.

Hillary Clinton

The country’s most populous swing county turned a shade bluer Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump in Harris County despite trailing nationally.

Clinton’s commanding victory here is a watershed moment for local Democrats who have struggled mightily to translate recent demographic shifts into gains at the ballot box.

It also is seen, by some, as a harbinger of potential political change across Texas.

Against the state’s crimson backdrop, Harris County has waffled between red in recent mid-term election years and light blue in presidential ones.

President Barack Obama broke the county’s 44-year Republican presidential voting streak when he won by less than 2 percentage points eight years ago. The offices of sheriff, county attorney and district clerk fell into Democratic hands then, too, as did a swath of judicial posts.

This year, Democrat Kim Ogg ousted Republican Devon Anderson in the highest-profile countywide contest, for district attorney, and Democrat Ed Gonzalez bested Ron Hickman for sheriff.

[…]

Harris County Republican Party Chair Paul Simpson emphasized that the party’s local candidates outperformed Trump in Harris County.

“With such a big headwind at the top of the ticket, we’re still doing fairly well down-ballot,” Simpson said, noting he believes this year is an aberration. “One election alone doesn’t tell you everything about the future.”

As Republicans prepare to battle back in two years, Simpson said the party will be eyeing where and why Harris County voters turned out, as Democrats focus, in part, on Hispanic voter participation.

“The question is whether or not these results were driven by disaffected conservative Republican voters that for this cycle voted Democrat, or is it something structural?” Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said. “Are we seeing the beginning of that demographic shift that’s been written about for a very long time as an inevitability?”

Here’s a subsequent article with some maps for those of you who like to see the pictures. As we will see as we go through the data, Hillary Clinton definitely received Republican votes. My estimate of this remains thirty to forty thousand crossover votes overall. There were also some people who clearly voted for Gary Johnson instead of Trump. The combined effect of all this is such that going forward I will not be using the Clinton/Trump numbers as a way of measuring how Democratic or Republican a given district is. I’ll be using numbers from judicial races instead, as I did in yesterday’s post.

So with that said, let’s get to the numbers. I’ve got them grouped by districts – Congressional, State Board of Ed, State House, Commissioners Court, HISD as a whole, HISD District VII, and the part of the Heights that voted on the dry ordinance. Vote totals first, then percentages.


Dist      Trump  Clinton  Johnson  Stein
========================================
CD02    145,264  119,389   10,299  2,353
CD07    120,912  124,408    9,111  2,246
CD09     23,817  108,115    2,328  1,399
CD10     75,361   38,345    3,970    804
CD18     40,914  156,809    5,338  2,038
CD29     33,960   94,815    3,128  1,465
				
SBOE6   300,561  286,273   22,212  5,379
				
HD126    32,551   26,420    1,982    510
HD127    45,097   25,702    2,345    502
HD128    40,621   17,135    1,460    375
HD129    38,545   27,908    2,529    686
HD130    55,140   22,633    2,688    533
HD131     6,202   39,221      661    438
HD132    34,437   31,433    2,350    597
HD133    41,446   31,244    2,740    568
HD134    35,831   49,907    4,044    753
HD135    29,450   28,184    2,006    576
HD137     7,931   18,342      764    355
HD138    24,634   24,646    1,786    467
HD139    10,844   40,064    1,254    472
HD140     6,113   20,964      548    300
HD141     4,839   32,769      525    329
HD142     9,484   34,454      919    360
HD143     8,729   23,823      627    362
HD144    10,541   15,842      761    301
HD145    10,083   23,484    1,104    428
HD146     8,479   38,920    1,064    533
HD147     9,835   46,346    1,756    727
HD148    14,779   30,937    2,195    560
HD149    14,265   28,190    1,006    415
HD150    45,081   27,896    2,587    608
				
CC1      62,935  244,980    7,796  3,146
CC2     119,471  126,335    7,134  2,381
CC3     171,710  169,602   11,638  3,112
CC4     190,841  165,527   13,133  3,116
				
HISD    117,296  312,988   13,766  4,494
HISD 7   27,886   31,379    2,554    517
				
Heights   5,262   10,379    1,107    169


Dist      Trump  Clinton  Johnson  Stein
========================================
CD02     52.38%   43.05%    3.71%  0.85%
CD07     47.11%   48.47%    3.55%  0.88%
CD09     17.56%   79.70%    1.72%  1.03%
CD10     63.61%   32.36%    3.35%  0.68%
CD18     19.95%   76.46%    2.60%  0.99%
CD29     25.46%   71.09%    2.35%  1.10%
				
SBOE6    48.92%   46.59%    3.62%  0.88%
				
HD126    52.96%   42.99%    3.22%  0.83%
HD127    61.23%   34.90%    3.18%  0.68%
HD128    68.17%   28.75%    2.45%  0.63%
HD129    55.33%   40.06%    3.63%  0.98%
HD130    68.08%   27.94%    3.32%  0.66%
HD131    13.33%   84.31%    1.42%  0.94%
HD132    50.04%   45.68%    3.41%  0.87%
HD133    54.54%   41.11%    3.61%  0.75%
HD134    39.58%   55.12%    4.47%  0.83%
HD135    48.91%   46.80%    3.33%  0.96%
HD137    28.95%   66.96%    2.79%  1.30%
HD138    47.80%   47.83%    3.47%  0.91%
HD139    20.60%   76.12%    2.38%  0.90%
HD140    21.89%   75.07%    1.96%  1.07%
HD141    12.58%   85.20%    1.36%  0.86%
HD142    20.97%   76.20%    2.03%  0.80%
HD143    26.02%   71.03%    1.87%  1.08%
HD144    38.41%   57.72%    2.77%  1.10%
HD145    28.73%   66.91%    3.15%  1.22%
HD146    17.31%   79.44%    2.17%  1.09%
HD147    16.76%   79.00%    2.99%  1.24%
HD148    30.49%   63.83%    4.53%  1.16%
HD149    32.51%   64.25%    2.29%  0.95%
HD150    59.18%   36.62%    3.40%  0.80%
				
CC1      19.74%   76.83%    2.44%  0.99%
CC2      46.79%   49.48%    2.79%  0.93%
CC3      48.22%   47.63%    3.27%  0.87%
CC4      51.22%   44.42%    3.52%  0.84%
				
HISD     26.15%   69.78%    3.07%  1.00%
HISD 7   44.73%   50.34%    4.10%  0.83%
				
Heights  31.10%   61.35%    6.54%  1.00%

So as you can see, Clinton carried the following districts: CD07, HDs 134 and 138, Commissioners Court Precinct 2 (Jack Morman’s precinct), and HISD district VII. That doesn’t mean these districts are all suddenly ripe for Democratic takeovers. HD134 was basically ground zero for Republican crossovers – which is basically what I expected going forward. HD134 is almost entirely within CD07, and there’s a fair amount of overlap with HISD VII, so those districts will closely correlate. But as you’ll see with the rest of the numbers, there’s not much else there to get excited about. In fact, the average Democratic judicial candidate in CD07 got almost exactly the same percentage of the vote as James Cargas did against John Culberson. I wish it were not the case, but there’s just nothing to see there.

Now HISD VII is going to be a bit of a special case, because it normally exists only in odd-numbered years, where it will be more subject to variations in turnout and where the non-partisan nature of its elections means that a clear difference in candidate quality can make a difference. There were over 61,000 ballots cast in this district last week, with over 35,000 votes for one of the candidates. What might a runoff electorate look like? We actually haven’t had many HISD runoffs in recent years. Here are the ones I could find:

HISD III, 2015 – 6,189 votes
HISD I, 2009 – 9,730 votes
HISD IX, 2009 – 12,323 votes
HISD III, 2003 – 8,206 votes
HISD IV, 2003 – 16,246 votes

Note that all of those occurred at the same time as a Mayoral runoff, which helped increase overall turnout. The HISD VII runoff will be the only race on the ballot in December. This is a high-turnout district, but I wouldn’t expect much. Maybe eight to ten thousand votes overall.

Back on topic. HD138 and Commissioners Court Precinct 2 are both places where I do believe opportunities exist for Democrats. Both have demographic factors pointing in their direction, and the dropoff from Clinton’s performance to those of other Democrats is not as stark. I keep waiting for CC Precinct 3 to get more competitive, and it is moving that direction slowly, but the key word there is “slowly”. As with CD07 and HD134, don’t be distracted by Clinton’s strong showing in CC3.

Finally, did the Gary Johnson number in the precincts with the Heights dry referendum stand out to you? I live in the Heights, though not in the part that had this vote. I saw a lot more Gary Johnson signs than I’d ever seen for a Libertarian candidate before. I also saw no Trump signs in front of numerous houses where I normally see signs for Republican candidates. They still had signs – for Devon Anderson, for Republican judicial candidates, occasionally for Republican Constable candidate Joe Danna, but none for Trump. I’d say this was Ground Zero for the “not Trump, but not Hillary either” caucus.

More to come over the next week or so. Let me know what you think.

CBS/YouGov: Trump 46, Clinton 43

Texas is being tracked as a battleground state. I can’t even believe I just typed that.

Hillary Clinton holds a three-point lead over Donald Trump in Florida, while in Texas – a state that has voted Republican by wide margins in recent years – Trump leads by a mere three points.

[…]

In 2012 Republicans won a double-digit victory in Texas, as they often do; it’s one of the most reliably Republican states in the nation. Today Texas is close, and is more a story of Trump underperforming rather than Clinton over-performing typical Democrats, and why despite the tightness it may still be difficult for the Democrats to actually get those last points and win the state outright. Clinton is doing about as well with key groups as President Obama did in 2008, but Trump is under-performing the Republican benchmarks by roughly ten points among white men, white women, and college whites in particular. Many of those not with Trump are unsure or voting third-party rather than Clinton.

In 2008 then-candidate Obama lost white men in Texas by more than fifty points and Clinton is down 35 points today. That’s still a big gap but the sheer number of voters that represents is part of the reason for the difference in the race. Meanwhile, Hispanics in Texas, who are supporting Clinton, say they feel very motivated to vote this year.

Scroll down for the polling data. Much of what is there is stuff we have talked about before. Clinton has consolidated Democratic voters better than Trump has done with Republicans. 93% of Dems are with Clinton, with four percent for Trump, one percent for Gary Johnson, and one percent for “someone else”, while only 84% of Rs are voting Trump, with 7% for Clinton, 5% for Johnson, and 2% for “someone else”. Clinton leads among all voters under 45, with a 21-point lead with the under-30 crowd. Trump as noted isn’t doing as well among white voters as Republicans have done in the past, but he is once again weirdly above 30% with Latino voters. I continue to believe those results are off, and that we’ll see numbers more in line with national Latino preferences once we have actual data. But look, the big deal here is that Texas is being tracked as a Florida-like battleground state. Who would have thunk it?

On a side note, Real Clear Politics has Trump leading Clinton 44.2 to 39.6 in the two-way race and 43.6 to 38.8 in the four-way race, while FiveThirtyEight has it at Trump 49.1, Clinton 43.9. That would be the highest total for a Democrat in a Presidential race in Texas since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976.

The state of the polls

Hillary Clinton

I’m just trying to get a handle on the numbers, with the idea of establishing some kind of guide for what to expect in the Presidential race in Texas. Bear with me.

The RCP average for the two-way Trump/Clinton race is 44.0 for Trump and 38.3 for Clinton. The FiveThirtyEight polling averages, which includes some other sources, come in at Trump 45.6, Clinton 37.6. However, once you apply the 538 secret sauce, you wind up with projected totals of 49.7% for Trump and 43.2% for Clinton.

RCP does not do this kind of modeling/forecasting – it’s a straight up polling average. As such, it can underestimate final totals, since it doesn’t try to guess what undecided voters may do. The 2012 RCP average for Texas had President Obama at 39.0 and Mitt Romney at 55.7; they finished at 41.4 and 57.2, respectively. Similarly, in 2008, Obama was averaging 40.5 and John McCain was at 53.5; the final numbers were 43.7 and 55.5. In other words, RCP underestimated Obama by three points in 2008 and by 2.5 points in 2012.

(I couldn’t find 538’s data for Texas in past years, so we’ll just skip that part of the analysis.)

There are so many variables in play here that I’ve been very reluctant to even begin to guess at what the final numbers might look like. Here are some of the things that factor in:

1. Overall turnout – Voter registration is at an all-time high, but that correlates weakly at best to turnout. However, the overall voting age population is way up, and even in a modest turnout-to-VAP scenario like we had in 2012, we’re easily looking at a half million or more extra voters than we’ve ever had, and that number could be quite a bit higher without setting a record for turnout as a share of the adult population. Nine million votes is not out of the question. I have to believe that beyond a certain point, extra voters will break Democratic. Where that point is, how blue they are, and how likely that is to happen, I have no idea.

2. Undecided voters – In 2008, the Obama/McCain share of the vote in the averages was 94.0%; in 2012, the Obama/Romney share was 94.7%. This year, it’s 82.3% for Trump and Clinton. Even adding in Johnson and Stein only gets you to 91.6%. That’s a lot more undecided voters. Do they show up? Which way do they lean? There’s a lot of room for candidates to gain ground here.

3. The third-party candidates – Just as a reminder, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein combined for 1.42% of the vote in Texas in 2012. Their RCP combined average is 9.3% right now. Poll numbers for third-party candidates are almost always overstated, often by quite a bit, but we don’t have any useful data for comparison from 2012. I’m sure there are some Republicans who will vote for Johnson over Trump, but nearly the entire state GOP establishment is in Trump’s corner, so it’s not like there’s an organized #NeverTrump movement. As with the undecided voters, there’s a lot of room for the Trump and Clinton numbers to change here if as has been the norm historically the L and G numbers are exaggerated. But if there was ever a year where maybe they’re not, you’d think this would be it.

4. The other polls – There are national polls showing Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead. That’s a landslide by any measure, and if it’s what we get, it’s entirely possible that the polls we have for Texas are underestimating her by a considerable amount, as state polling tends to lag the national trends. The fact that the one most recent poll we have is also the closest one we’ve seen since that weird Washington Post poll suggests that possibility as well. We also know that there’s a lot of polling data that is not made public but from which we can make inferences based on the actions taken by the campaigns and other actors who have that data. Here, we have multiple suggestions of Republicans being worried about their turnout in Texas, plus Hillary Clinton actually running a week’s worth of ads in Texas, online and on TV. Draw your own conclusions about that.

5. Latino voters – This is baked into some of the other factors, but I keep being struck by the differences between what national polls say about Latino support for Donald Trump – in short, he may be lucky to get 20% of the Latino vote nationally, well below what Mitt Romney got – and what the state polls have said. The latter have generally had his support in the 30s, with Clinton in the 50s or low 60s. This may be a function of small sample sizes combined with excessive weighting to compensate, or it may simply indicate that Texas Latinos are different than Latinos elsewhere. Bear in mind that we have some data to indicate that lower-propensity Latino voters tend to be more Democratic than high-propensity Latino voters, which is a fancy way of saying that higher Latino turnout correlates with better Democratic performance among Latinos.

6. Crossover voters – Mark Bluenthal wrote yesterday that the key to Hillary Clinton’s increased national lead is that she has consolidated the Democratic vote better than Donald Trump has done with the Republican vote. Another way to put that is there are more Republicans who are voting for other candidates, including Clinton, than there are Democrats who are voting for other candidates. We see that in Texas as well, specifically in that UH poll, which showed ten percent of Rs voting for Clinton or Johnson, but only five percent of Ds voting for other candidates. Hillary Clinton’s better performance in Texas is two parts turnout – there are more Democrats and fewer Republicans voting than usual – and one part crossover voting. If that latter group is bigger than we think, that will affect the outcome.

In the end, I’m less interested in the margin between Trump and Clinton – given what we do know so far, barring anything unexpected that margin is going to be smaller than the McCain-Obama margin – as I am in the absolute totals. How many people actually vote for Hillary Clinton? The high-water mark is 3,528,633, set by Obama in 2008. Just on the increase in population alone, she could top that while receiving a lower percentage of the vote (for example, 3.6 million votes for Clinton out of 8.4 million total = 42.9%; Obama got 43.7%), but I would consider that a huge disappointment. Can she get to 3.8 million, or (be still my heart) 4 million? Can she reach 44 or even 45 percent, a level not reached since Jimmy Carter in 1976? I hope to have some small amount of clarity on this before voting concludes, but I doubt I’ll get much.

I think that about covers it. What it all means, I still don’t know. But when it’s all over and we’re doing the autopsy, these are the things I’ll want to look back on.

UH Hobby School: Trump 41, Clinton 38

Damn!

Hillary Clinton

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has one of his slimmest leads yet over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas, 41 percent to 38 percent, according to a new poll among registered voters. Trump’s support falls within the survey’s margin of error, which is plus- or minus 3 percent, meaning the race is a statistical dead heat.

Released Tuesday by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, the poll also found that 16 percent of respondents were undecided or refused to answer. Four percent chose Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 1 percent selected Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

“The national gains Hillary Clinton has made in the last two weeks are evident in Texas, where she has closed within three points of Donald Trump,” said Richard Murray, political science professor and director of the Hobby School’s Survey Research Institute. “With such a close margin, the key question will be which candidate can actually get their supporters to the polls over the next three weeks.”

Trump’s lead jumps one point – to 4 percent – when the poll considered voters who said they were certain to vote on or before Election Day. Among independent voters in Texas, Clinton dominates Trump, 30 percent to 14 percent. The GOP candidate, however, won the support of a plurality of male respondents, 44 percent to Clinton’s 35 percent, while women support Clinton by a four-point margin, 42 percent to 38 percent.

There’s also another WaPo/Survey Monkey poll that shows Trump up 2, 48-46. That same poll had Clinton up 46-45 in early September. I’m not putting too much weight into this because its methodology is weird, but for those of you that saw news of this poll, I’m letting you know that I saw it as well. Here’s the info for the UH poll. I’ll quote from their intro:

The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston completed live telephone interviews with 1,000 registered voters in Texas who reported they were certain (77 percent) or very likely to vote (23 percent) on or before election day on November 8, 2016.
Interviews were conducted by Consumer Research International between October 7 and October 15, 2016. Interviews were conducted on landline (54 percent) and cell phones (46percent).

The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percent (at the 95 percent confidence level). The survey was conducted under the supervision of co-directors Richard Murray, director of the Hobby School’s Survey Research Institute, and Robert Stein, research associate at the Hobby School.

The sample was weighted to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the electorate based on the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

This is consistent with their earlier poll of Harris County that showed Clinton with a lead. As I said then, you can’t have Trump leading the state by less than half of Mitt Romney’s margin – hell, less than half of John McCain’s margin – and not see that reflected at the local level as well. One could argue that the composition of the Texas electorate this year will be more favorable to Democrats this year than 2012 and possibly 2008 were, but we’ll leave that discussion for after the election. In any event, a few quick points to make here:

– I can’t overstate how shocking it is to see a Republican candidate in Texas in a top-of-the-ticket race score only 41% in a poll in October. Forget the three-point margin for a minute, how is it that Trump so consistently can’t even come close to fifty percent?

– Even worse from Trump’s perspective is there’s not that much room for him to grow. He and Clinton have about the same share of their own voters – 80% of Dems say they support Clinton, 78% of GOPers are with Trump. More to the point, here aren’t a lot of undecided Republicans out there – twelve percent fall under None, Don’t Know, or Refused, while 14% of Dems are in one of those buckets. Trump does lose more of his own voters than Clinton does – ten percent of Republicans are voting for someone else (5% Johnson, 5% Clinton) while only five percent of Democrats are defecting (2% Trump, 2% Johnson, 1% Stein). Maybe some of them will come home for him.

– There’s a large share of undecided independents (29%), but 1) Clinton leads 30-14 among indies who do have a preference, 2) we don’t know how big a slice of the sample indies are, and 3) these are probably your least likely voters in the sample.

– Unfortunately, the provided poll data does not include breakdowns by age or by race. I’d bet that Clinton leads among voters under 50, as has been the case in other polls, but I can’t confirm that based on what we have.

FiveThirtyEight has this poll incorporated into their data set for Texas, but as of this writing Real Clear Politics had not noticed it. You should also read this 538 post about the poll and why Clinton is doing as well as she is in red states overall and Texas in particular.

I’ll have some more thoughts on the state of the polls tomorrow.

The Trump dilemma

I’d almost feel pity for them, if they hadn’t brought this on themselves.

Leading GOP elected officials — including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn — condemned the words but continued to back their candidate, and pro-Trump grassroots forces appeared set in their support for the party nominee. But mostly younger GOP operatives are growing increasingly furious with party leaders who stay loyal.

“The Republican Party in Texas has jumped the shark,” said Jenifer Sarver, a former George W. Bush administration official. “Strong condemnations of Donald Trump, while still supporting his candidacy, ring hollow, cynical and hypocritical.”

In dozens of interviews with Texas Republican operatives over the weekend and into Monday, many who work in Texas politics said the state’s elected GOP officials are so scared of alienating Trump’s base that nothing he could say or do would dislodge their political support.

They calculate that any Trump heterodoxy now could translate into electoral suicide in the 2018 GOP primary, where Cruz, Abbott and Patrick will all be up for re-election, along with the entire U.S. House delegation.

But the long-term consequences of enabling Trump, some younger Republicans fear, could prove dangerous to the health of the party.

[…]

Otherwise, 22 statewide and congressional officeholders were radio silent through Monday, and not one Texas federal or state officeholder who previously endorsed Trump changed that stance.

“There’s no good answer — I’d stay quiet,” said Vinny Minchillo, a Texas Republican ad maker. “There’s no upside to making any kind of comment or quote. I’d just keep my powder dry.”

Trump’s Sunday night debate performance only hardened support for him. In a catharsis for the base, he confronted Clinton with accusations that have floated for decades in conservative media.

At the same time, he brought to the debate three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct and another woman, the victim of a child rapist whom Hillary Clinton represented as a public defender in the 1970s.

That decision only further rattled many Republicans nationwide.

Democrats are openly promising to use support for Trump against Republicans for years to come — when congressional lines shift amid redistricting next decade, and demographics could make conservative states more competitive.

“These Republicans are cut from the same cloth as Trump and you can bet they’ll be held answerable to it in future elections,” said former state Sen. Wendy Davis. “This will haunt Republicans in this election and the elections to come.”

A number of consultants interviewed worry that those sticking with Trump are not factoring in how the changing demographic winds are blowing.

“Some Republicans would rather let the party lose and expire in 30 years rather than let the next generation of Republicans start to build the party of the future,” said GOP consultant Brendan Steinhauser.

It should be noted that the infighting here isn’t just about politicians but also about communities that make up a big part of the GOP base. Evangelicals as a whole support Trump, but evangelical women and younger evangelicals, not so much. Other Republican women are not very happy about the refusal of male Republicans to cut ties with Trump. These are wounds that are not going to just heal overnight.

The real question in Texas is whether any of this represents a real threat going forward or just an unusually rocky election season. For it to be a real threat, there have to be three ingredients. First, Democratic turnout has to improve to the point where Republicans no longer feel that they have an impervious advantage. If Trump carries Texas by a smallish amount, like the six or seven points that the polls say he leads by, but the reason for that is primarily lower than usual R turnout plus a significant share of the vote going to Gary Johnson, and not because Hillary Clinton broke the four million vote barrier, then it can all be easily rationalized away as a black swan event and nothing to worry about. Democrats need to vote at a level that makes the Republican establishment think “oh, crap, there’s more of them than we thought”, or else they will feel no menace. Assuming that happens, Democrats need to find a decent slate of candidates to run in 2018, and last but not least there needs to be an ongoing well-financed and organized campaign to remind all those voters that their Republican leaders clung to Donald Trump to the bitter end. For now, I’ll just settle for the decent vote total.

More on this from the Chron, which focuses more on this year:

Echoing sentiments of Republican party insiders, Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political scientist, said if Trump boosts Democratic votes in some down-ballot races, as he expects, Hurd and several Texas House Republican incumbents who are also in competitive races could be in trouble. Many wealthy Republican donors in Texas who were convinced by party leaders to back Trump have also become increasingly uneasy with his rhetoric and have slowed the cash flow, officials said.

“The (U.S.) Senate at this point is very likely to go Democratic, and it’s also true that state legislative districts will be in play – especially the Republican House seats that arc across the north side of Dallas,” Jillson said. “Instead of six or seven Democrats taking House seats from Republicans, I could see it in the low to mid-teens. And that will change the dynamic of the legislative session next year.”

Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political scientist, said the same dynamic could happen in the Houston area. “There are three things to watch: Democrats will turn out of respect for the Clintons’ legacy, or out of fear that Trump could get elected, and that Republicans may be so fed up with all this, then they just won’t vote,” he said.

“That’s where the down-ballot effect will come,” he said.

[…]

Texas Republicans who watched the Sunday debate said it will go both ways.

“The (Sunday) debate didn’t really address any issues. It was just fighting,” Brenda Soto, 43, a Houston sales manager, said Monday while visiting the Texas Capitol. “I’m a Republican. I’m going to hold my nose and vote for (Trump) because I’m more concerned about national security and border security and the economy than I am his potty mouth. Men say disgusting things like that sometimes.”

But Sheila LeMaster, 52, a Katy medical records consultant and Republican, said she intends to stay home.

“Neither one of them should be president. Period,” she said. “If that hurts the rest of the Republicans, so be it. The party has brought this on itself.”

I’ve fooled around with the numbers enough to know that it would take a significant shift to make more than a handful of Legislative seats competitive, but if the national polls keep going the way they have then that possibility can’t be ruled out. Really, it’s people like Sheila LeMaster that Texas Republicans should fear. If there are enough like her who really do stay home, then they could be in a world of hurt. Early voting is going to tell quite the story this year. TPM has more.

UH Hobby School (Harris County only): Clinton 43, Trump 34

I have many thoughts about this.

Hillary Clinton

Between September 1 and September 20, 2016, the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs conducted a telephone survey of 550 Harris County registered voters as part of a larger Hobby School study on voter participation and engagement under the direction of Mark P. Jones, Renée Cross, and Jim Granato with Ching-Hsing Wang and Wyman Wan. The survey was based on a stratified probability design, including both landlines and cell phones. The survey was available in both English and Spanish using bilingual operators, and lasted an average of 13 minutes. The final data set was weighted by ethnicity, age, and gender to be representative of Harris County registered voters. The margin of error for the survey results is plus or minus 4 percent (at the 95 percent confidence level).

Harris County is the third most populous county in the nation and is home to approximately one fifth of Texas voters. The 2008 and 2012 presidential contests were very close in Harris County, with Barack Obama defeating his 2008 Republican rival, John McCain, 50.45 percent to 48.82 percent, and his 2012 Republican rival, Mitt Romney, 49.39 percent to 49.31 percent.

The Presidential Election: Vote Choice

Approximately two months prior to the November 8 presidential election, the survey finds Hillary Clinton with a lead over Donald Trump in Harris County, with the size of her lead varying depending on assumptions related to voter participation.


Candidate    ELV    LV    RV
============================
Clinton      43%   43%   42%
Trump        39%   34%   32%
Johnson       7%    9%    9%
Stein         1%    1%    2%
Unsure/NA    11%   13%   15%

We divided the survey respondents into three groups of decreasing size: all registered voters (Registered Voters), voters who indicated that it is very likely or extremely likely that they will vote this fall (Likely Voters), and voters who indicated that it is extremely likely they will vote this fall (Extremely Likely Voters).

[…]

The Harris County District Attorney and Sheriff Elections: Vote Choice

The survey also queried respondents regarding their vote preference in the key races for Harris County District Attorney and Harris County Sheriff. In both contests, even among the likely and extremely likely voters, there existed a substantial proportion of respondents who were unsure about their preference in these lower visibility contests (compared to the presidential race).

Among those likely voters who did have a preference, in the District Attorney race 29 percent favored Democratic challenger Kim Ogg over Republican incumbent Devon Anderson with 27 percent support. In the Sheriff contest, 33 percent of likely voters supported Republican incumbent Ron Hickman while 32 percent backed Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez.

Just as was the case in the presidential race, the Republican candidates fared better when the population was limited to those most likely to cast a ballot this fall: the extremely likely voters. Among this population Anderson narrowly bested Ogg, 30 percent to 29 percent, while Hickman increased his lead over Gonzalez, 36 percent to 30 percent.

Poll data is here. My thoughts:

– I find the distinction between Likely Voters and Extremely Likely Voters to be silly. I mean, why stop at Extremely Likely? Why not ask if someone is Super Duper Double Dog No Backsies likely to vote? There’s a reason why every other poll under the sun uses Registered Voters and Likely Voters, and nothing else.

– The press release for this poll claims that “neither party can depend on presidential coattails” for the donwballot races. I don’t see how they can draw that conclusion from the given data set. For one thing, there’s no breakdown of the vote by partisan affiliation, nor is there any generic “which party’s candidates are you more likely to support in other races?” question. We have several cycles’ worth of actual results to suggest that Democrats have done a pretty good job of voting all the way down the ballot, while Republicans have only really done that in 2012, and even then not quite as faithfully as the Dems. Don’t make suppositions about what the topline numbers mean. Ask the questions that could tell you the answers!

– I picked the “Likely Voter” numbers for my post title, and if one went by that without knowing anything else, one would feel really good about Democratic downballot chances. But to be secure in those feelings, one would have to know those partisan crosstabs. If one were to choose an archetype for the Republican Who Will Not Vote For Donald Trump, it’s probably a voter in HD134. How many self-identified Republicans say they are voting for a candidate who is not Donald Trump? How many are just in the “Unsure/No Answer” column? That would tell me a whole lot more about the downballot races than the actual Ogg/Anderson and Gonzalez/Hickman results do.

– How many new voters are in this sample, and how many of them are deemed “Likely” or “Extremely Likely”? We know voter registration is up in Harris County – indeed, it’s way up around the state – so who are these voters and how were they accounted for in the poll?

– I would love to see a similar poll – with my suggested modifications, of course – for other area counties as well. Fort Bend would be my first choice for this, as they are close to being the kind of swing county that Harris has been. Is the year that Fort Bend Democrats break through, or does the Fort Bend GOP maintain its hold? A sneak preview of that answer would have been nice.

– If the polls of Texas that show Clinton trailing by significantly less than the margins by which President Obama lost the state are accurate, then it stands to reason that Clinton would be doing better in Harris County than Obama (who won the county by small margins) did. Similarly, if this poll of Harris County is accurate, then it stands to reason Clinton would be running more strongly statewide than Obama did. It’s like the relationship between national polls and state polls – they may not be tightly correlated, but one is unlikely to make a big move in a given direction without the other following suit.

ECPS: Trump 42, Clinton 36

Another state poll result to add to the list.

A new Emerson College poll in Texas, which has long been a Republican stronghold, shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by only 6 points (42% to 36%), with 10% of respondents voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson, 6% for the Green Party’s Jill Stein and 6% undecided. Trump’s lead is within the poll’s 3.6% margin of error. The poll was completed before Clinton announced she had been diagnosed with pneumonia.

As a point of comparison, in the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney soundly defeated Barack Obama by 16 points in the Lone Star State (57% to 41%). Texas has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, when Jimmy Carter beat GOP incumbent Gerald Ford.

Trump is having mixed success winning over voters who supported Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the state’s GOP primary last March. In the Emerson poll, 76% of Cruz voters plan to vote for Trump in November, while 10% support Johnson, 6% are unsure, and the remaining 7% are split between Stein and Clinton. Cruz won the Texas GOP primary, beating Trump 44% to 27%. Clinton is struggling to win over voters who supported Bernie Sanders in the Texas Democratic primary. Only 49% of Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton in November; 21% say they will vote for Stein.

Trump is winning the Independent vote 36% to 19% over Clinton, with Stein taking 16% and Johnson 15%. However, it appears Johnson is hurting Trump more than Clinton, taking 12% of registered Republican voters and 15% of Independents while only winning 3% of registered Democrats.

The text above is taken from the ECPS homepage, where you can also download an XLS with poll data. The top link is to a press release with more details than what I quoted above, but it was formatted in a funky way that made copying nearly impossible. The ECPS did poll Texas in 2014, though theirs was one of the least accurate results. It was in March, for what that’s worth, but they were way off. The Libertarian/Green numbers are quite a bit higher than they were in the PPP poll, but that’s the only point of comparison we have. The one thing we can say is that this is consistent with other results showing a less-than-usual-size lead for Trump. The Texas Lyceum has poll numbers coming out today, so we’ll see where they fit in. Link via The Hill.

Evan McMullin to sue for ballot access in Texas

You know, that guy who recently turned up as the latest NeverTrump dreamboat? He wants on the ballot in Texas.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, an ex-CIA officer and congressional policy wonk who launched his campaign last week to offer “Never Trump” Republicans a conservative option, faces a steep political challenge gaining enough support to affect the November election.

And by jumping into the race so late, McMullin will need to clear significant legal hurdles, as well. Filing deadlines for independent candidates in more than half of the states have already passed, and several more deadlines are fast approaching.

That will mean going to court — including in Texas, where an independent had to gather nearly 80,000 signatures by May.

“Our intention in Texas is to file a legal challenge, and we think that the great people of Texas will agree with us that there shouldn’t be artificial boundaries on the kinds of people that can run for president,” said Joel Searby, the campaign’s chief strategist.

Noting that Texas’ May 9 petition deadline — by far the earliest in the country — fell long before the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, Searby argues that prospective independent candidates were unable to take into consideration the choices of the two major parties before deciding whether to run.

“There’s just so many restrictions on ballot access in Texas, and Texas is generally a very open and independent and free-thinking kind of place,” Searby said. “So we don’t think the people of Texas are going to want to keep that law.”

A general counsel is coordinating the campaign’s ballot access efforts across multiple states, Searby said, and the campaign has also been in touch with Texas lawyers. Garland attorney Matthew Sawyer, who worked on Texas business magnate Ross Perot’s Reform Party presidential run in 1996, has reportedly been involved with the effort. Reached by phone last week, Sawyer directed all questions to the campaign.

Ballot access experts are split on McMullin’s chances of winning a federal lawsuit. To Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News and a longtime activist on the issue, McMullin’s case is a slam dunk, particularly in Texas.

“Texas is in a class by itself. The Texas deadline is impossible to defend,” Winger said. Pointing to the later deadline for independent candidates running for offices in Texas other than president, Winger contends there is “powerful evidence that the presidential deadline is unconstitutional, and that’s all he needs to show.”

But prominent Texas election attorney Buck Wood, who has represented several state-level candidates challenging independent ballot restrictions in the past, sees it exactly the other way.

“I don’t see any possibility of him getting on the ballot in Texas,” Wood said. “Just because you made your decision too late is not an excuse. You have to go back and say, even had we made the decision back then, it still would have been so onerous as to have been unconstitutional, and the chances of that are nil.”

The story recounts the process for getting on the ballot as an independent in Texas, and also notes that Ralph Nader tried and failed to sue his way onto the ballot in 2004 after coming up short in the signature-collecting process. My money’s with Buck Wood on this one, but I don’t really care one way or another. Nobody knows who Evan McMullin is – he basically got zero percent in that PPP poll – and he’s extremely unlikely to raise the kind of dough to become any better known to Texas voters. If I had to guess, I’d say that any votes he does get will come primarily at the expense of Gary Johnson, who is already an alternative for some NeverTrumpers who can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. McMullin could do what Nader ultimately did in Texas and file a declaration to be counted as a write-in candidate, but the deadline for that is Monday, and he doesn’t have a running mate yet as required. So, you know, tick tock tick tock. I’ll keep an eye on this because that’s what I do, but I don’t expect anything interesting to come of it. Link via Burkablog.

PPP: Trump 44, Clinton 38

We knew this poll was coming, and it confirms what we have been seeing elsewhere.

PPP’s new Texas poll finds a relatively tight race, at least on the curve of recent Presidential election results in the state. Donald Trump leads with 44% to 38% for Hillary Clinton, 6% for Gary Johnson, 2% for Jill Stein, and less than half a percent (0) for Evan McMullin. In a head to head contest Trump leads Clinton 50-44 in the state, which Mitt Romney won by 16 points in 2012.

A Democratic victory in Texas this year remains a stretch but within the numbers there are signs of Democrats being positioned to become seriously competitive there in the years ahead. Trump’s lead is based entirely on his holding a 63-33 advantage among seniors. With voters under 65, Clinton leads him 49-45. And when you look just specifically at voters under 45, Clinton leads Trump 60-35. Older voters are overwhelmingly responsible for the Republican advantage in Texas, and generational change is likely to help Democrats become more competitive.

A big piece of that generational change is the increasing racial diversity of the electorate in Texas. Trump has a 69/25 lead with white voters but the reason the state’s so competitive overall is that among non-white voters Clinton has a 73-21 lead, including a 68-27 edge with the state’s booming Hispanic population.

Clinton’s unpopular in Texas, as you would expect, with a 36/59 favorability rating. But Trump’s not a whole lot better off with only 40% of voters seeing him favorably to 53% with a negative opinion. The tax return issue continues to plague Trump with 64% of voters thinking he needs to release his returns to only 25% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. Even Trump’s supporters, by a 43/41 spread, think he should release them. Another issue that has the potential to cause Trump problems down the road is if he refuses to participate in the debates as scheduled. 77% of voters think he needs to do that to only 14% who don’t think he needs to and among his own supporters there’s an even stronger sentiment- 82/12- that Trump needs to participate. If Trump is stubborn about that it could cause the bottom to fall out on his support even further.

The full polling memo is here. A few thoughts:

– If President Obama were running against Trump, he would be trailing by only two points, 48-46. Let that sink in for a moment. Obama’s approval/disapproval numbers are 42/54, which is a tiny bit better than Trump’s favorable/unfavorable numbers of 40/53.

– This is Clinton’s high-water mark in Texas so far, which puts her in Obama’s polling range from 2012, while Trump continues to lag way behind Romney’s poll numbers. All this is of course consistent with the race being closer now than it was four years ago, but it’s not yet suggestive of Clinton doing better than Obama did. PPP did poll Trump/Clinton straight up, and the result there was 50/44, which is more in line with her exceeding the 2012 level, but it’s not a two-candidate race, so all that shows is that she has the potential to grow.

– Trump’s numbers among white voters are closer to what Romney got, but still a few points behind it. The 69-25 figure cited about is from the Trump/Clinton two-person choice; with all four candidates listed he leads by a more modest 64-21 among whites. He does have the potential to grow as well, as Gary Johnson gets 5% and 8% are undecided. It’s also well within reason that this just portends a decrease in Republican turnout. It’s still too early to say.

– This is the first poll of Texas I’ve seen that includes all four candidates. Johnson’s 6% and Stein’s 2% would significantly exceed their numbers from 2012 if they hold up, but as we know from national polling data, third party numbers tend to be exaggerated in polls compared to what ultimately happens at the ballot box. This is a weird year, of course, so one wants to tread carefully in making any broad claims. Unfortunately, there’s no basis for comparison in the 2012 numbers, as none of the polls from September onward included Johnson or Stein, who represented the L and G parties that year as well. The one data point we have is in the UT/Trib poll from October 12, 2012, in the Senate race (see page 3), where Lib candidate John Jay Myers polled at 3% and Green David Collins was at 2%. In actual voting, Myers wound up with 2.06% and Collins with 0.86%, higher than their Presidential counterparts but lower than their poll totals. Make of that what you will.

– The age split is encouraging from a Democratic perspective, but old people vote, and a 20-year timeline as suggested in the polling memo is forever. The Democrats’ base problem remains the same – base turnout hasn’t grown, at least in non-Presidential years, since 2002. If Democratic turnout increases this year, then perhaps there is some hope to get an increase in 2018. Of course, one could have made the same claim after 2008, and we know how that went. Solving the base turnout issue is the Hilbert problem for Texas Dems.

PDiddie has more.

Three polling-related observations

This story is about the tough spot that Donald Trump is putting professional Latino Republicans in. I have no sympathy for any of them, of course, but what caught my eye in this article was this little nugget:

“I’m not on the anti-Trump movement like some of my colleagues who I talk to every day, but I’m far from an endorsement,” said Leslie Sanchez, a Republican commentator for CBS News, echoing the views of many of these notable Latino conservatives who are skeptical of Trump.

None of these top figures said they will support presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. But they are highly critical of Trump, both because they are offended by his “abhorrent racist rhetoric” (as Sanchez put it) and demoralized by his campaign’s poor engagement with broad swaths of the electorate — including, but not limited to, Latinos.

“Trump is having a maddening effect of turning solid red states purple. Areas that should not have gone in that direction for the next 30 years, he’s managed to do in about four months,” Sanchez said, citing survey work she did in Texas in April.

“Some of the Republican pollsters I talked to there said this should not be happening for at least a generation by natural demographic growth,” she added. “Trump has accelerated that by underperforming in traditionally conservative Latino households.”

In other words, the polls that aren’t being publicly released are in general agreement with the polls that have been publicly released, which is to say they agree that Donald Trump has a much more modest lead over Hillary Clinton in Texas than we are used to seeing. This also suggests that the data we haven’t yet seen in the public polls, about how the vote breaks down along demographic lines, that Trump really has been galvanizing Latino voters, in a way that could very well shake things up at least a little here in Texas. You have no idea how much I’d love to see the data that Leslie Sanchez is talking about.

Then there’s this, in a story about how even with “tighter than expected” polls, the Clinton campaign has no current plans to make a push in Texas.

Texas Republicans, of all groups, are perhaps the most enthused over the idea that the state could be in play in the fall.

Republicans say they would love to see Democrats drawn into what they view as a hopeless money pit. But also, within a state GOP torn over its own nominee, a Clinton offensive could be just what it takes to rally an otherwise morose group.

“The quickest way to activate disenfranchised GOP donors who won’t give to Trump would be an aggressive effort by Democrats to win the state,” said Brian Haley, a Texan who was a top fundraiser in two previous GOP presidential campaigns.

Abbott is one of multiple Republicans who have already sent fundraising emails on the notion.

“She has already made it known that winning Texas will be a focus of her campaign,” Abbott campaign director John Jackson wrote in a recent missive, referring to Clinton. “It’s clear that Hillary will not only continue Obama’s liberal leadership—she will be even worse!”

Hey, Trump may be a racist con man who took days to even put out a tweet about the SCOTUS HB2 decision, doesn’t really care where anyone goes to the bathroom, and scares the bejeezus out of our corporate overlords, but at least he’s not Hillary, am I right? That’s a remarkable admission of weakness, one that lends credence to the idea that Republican turnout could be lower than we have seen in recent Presidential elections. That’s got to be a scary prospect for various downballot Republican candidates, including an especially all the countywide Republicans in Harris County.

Finally, here’s the initial FiveThirtyEight view of Texas, which has Trump up by five (!) points, 48.5% to 43.5%, on Hillary Clinton. Here’s how that might break down:


Candidate     Total Votes    Pct
================================
Trump           3,880,000  48.5%
Clinton         3,480,000  43.5%
Johnson           528,000   6.6%
Stein             112,000   1.4%

I’m assuming turnout of 8 million, as was the case in 2008 and 2012. Jill Stein’s numbers are not included on the 538 page, as none of the recent polls included her by name, so I just assigned her the remaining percentage. Under this scenario, Clinton exceeds Obama’s 2012 vote total by about 170,000 votes though she falls short of 2008 by about 50,000. Trump falls well short of Mitt Romney, who drew 700,000 more votes than this, while both Johnson and Stein far exceed their 2012 numbers – I mean, the total of Johnson plus Stein in 2012 was a hair over 113,000, or just barely more than what Stein is projected to have by herself here. That’s quite a significant change, if it holds.

Now, I think Clinton will do better than 3.5 million votes, and I have a hard time imagining Trump getting fewer than 4 million. I figure the difference will come in part from total turnout being higher than 8 million, and in part from the totals for Johnson and Stein being less than what is projected here. I could be wrong about either or both of those – this is for sure a weird year – but for now at least, all the data we have points to this being a closer, possibly much closer, Presidential race in Texas than we have seen recently. Now we need to wait and see what the trendlines look like.

Our first general election poll of Texas

From the inbox:

In a poll released today and conducted June 13-14, 2016, Texas voters are specifically rejecting Donald Trump’s lies and the corruption of State GOP elected officials.

While Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 7 points (36.8 % – 29.7% ±3.1%) a deeper dive shows an overall unwillingness amongst Republican voters to pull the lever for a straight ticket. Republicans also make up the lions share of undecided.

998 responses were collected by live telephone calls from a random sample of Texas voters, balanced to the likely 2016 General Election turnout on June 13 and 14, 2016. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1%.  The poll was conducted by Leland Beatty, an Austin-based market research consultant with extensive experience polling Texas voters.

Below are the most important findings from today’s poll:

In Texas, Clinton Poised to Top Obama 2008 Vote; Gaining on Trump

Hillary Clinton is on track to top President Obama’s 2008 44% finish in Texas.  Obama’s performance in 2008 had a powerful down-ballot effect, pushing Democrats close to a majority in the Texas House of Representatives.

Trump will have significant difficulty adding to his 7 point lead (3.1% margin of error). Undecided voters were significantly concerned about their place in the economy and about the honesty and character of the candidates.

Undecided voters are also very fond of former President George W Bush.  Bush, together with most of his family, has declared he will not support Trump.

Economy and Corruption of Elected Officials Top Texan’s concerns; Immigration Barely Registers

By a 3 to 1 margin, Texas voters believe state government corruption is a real problem.Two-thirds of Trump supporters believe that corruption in Texas state government is a real problem.  Among the rest of Texas voters, 81% believe that state government corruption is a real problem, and 51% believe corruption is widespread throughout Texas government.

Because of continuing legal action and law enforcement investigations against incumbent Republican office holders, corruption concerns are certain to create a significant drag on the Republican ballot.

A quarter of undecided voters are most concerned about the economy, and the improving economy is likely to aid Clinton’s appeal to voters.

Only 7% of undecided voters (2% of the total vote) identified immigration as their primary issue. Trump and other Statewide Republicans are well outside of the mainstream on their immigration positions.

Trump Lies and Hush Money Scandals Bringing Down GOP Vote

Trump’s seemingly pathological problem with the truth is undercutting his potential among undecided voters.  1 out of 4 self-identified Republicans are, so far, refusing to support Trump. 80% of those feel favorably toward former President George W. Bush, and 40% expressed concern about the honesty of the candidates.  If Democrats successfully connect Trump’s truth troubles with voter’s concerns about corrupt state elected officials, a Democratic resurgence is almost guaranteed.  

The fact that many Republican elected officials have used taxpayer dollars to pay hush money to avoid personal lawsuits has the potential to cover the entire Republican ticket in perceived corruption.

Republican Straight Ticket Voters at Low Tide; Voters Suspicious of Statewide Leaders

Over half (52%) of self-identified Republicans say they may vote for candidates not on the Republican ballot. 27% of self-identified Republicans say they may not even vote Republican at the top of the ticket, because of their doubts about Trump.

Because so many self-identified Republicans have deep doubts about their own candidates, Republican straight ticket voting could fall in Texas to its lowest level since Republicans became the majority party—and that same doubt could bring a sooner than expected end to Republican dominance in Texas.

Crosstabs are here. As you know, I’ve been waiting for one of these to come along. Now that I have this one, here are a few thoughts:

– This poll is of registered voters, not “likely” voters. That’s fine, and I’d argue wholly appropriate at this time, but it’s a distinction to keep in mind when comparing polls.

– For comparison purposes and to keep my presentation consistent, here’s a table of the topline result:


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      36.8%
Clinton    29.7%
Johnson     2.6%
DK/Else    31.0%

I’ll get to the undecideds in a bit. It’s interesting to me that in a year where the Libertarian ticket is being touted as a viable Trump alternative, and some people are speculating that they could reach the 15% national polling average needed to be invited to the televised debates, Gary Johnson landed at 2.6% here. To be fair, that’s considerably higher than the 1.11% he got in 2012, which in turn was the first time a Libertarian candidate finished with more than one percent of the vote in Texas. All of which to say, fifteen percent is a long way away. There was a followup question for the Johnson supporters asking what motivated their selection. Of the 26 total people who named Johnson as their choice, 11 said theirs was a protest vote, 10 said they were inspired by Libertarian principles, and five said they were unsure or didn’t know. Make of that what you will.

– It’s always possible that most if not all of the 31% of respondents who said they were undecided will simply not vote, though I think that’s less likely in a higher turnout election like Presidential year elections. Be that as it may, I like to filter out the undecideds when there are a lot of them and then recalculate the totals. If you do that, you get the following:


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      53.3%
Clinton    43.0%
Johnson     3.8%

That puts Clinton within a hair of a single digit deficit, and puts her less than a point behind Obama’s 2008 performance, which was 43.7%. Not a bad start, all things considered.

– That said, most of the Undecideds are people who usually vote Republican and who rated George W. Bush the better President over Bill Clinton by a 2-1 margin. Trump therefore has more room to improve. In fact, if you assign the undecideds who preferred Bush’s presidency to Trump and those who preferred Bill Clinton’s to Hillary, you get


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      56.7%
Clinton    40.5%
Johnson     2.8%

Which looks a lot like the 2012 Romney/Obama numbers. Point being, it really matters how undecided those voters are.

– Speaking of 2012, the closest Obama was to Romney in any poll was a PPP poll from April that had him down 50-43. No other poll had him higher than 41, which is within a point of where he wound up, or closer than down 11. One poll as we know doesn’t tell us much. We’ll see what the trends look like, to see if breaking 45% and/or finishing within ten points is feasible.

– The crosstabs that we have do not include demographic information other than gender, which was oddly skewed towards women (60% of respondents were female). That means I can’t tell you how white/black/Latino voters went, nor can I tell you anything about how people voted by age range. That also means we can’t make guesses about how increases in turnout level, which would almost certainly make the electorate younger and less white, might affect the result.

– A third of self-identified Republicans thought corruption in state government was “widespread”, a third thought it was “a problem, but not widespread”, and the rest were split between “not a problem” and undecided. More than half of Democrats and more than half of voters who did not identify as either R or D thought corruption in state government was “widespread”, with only five percent of Dems and ten percent of neithers thinking it’s not a problem. File that away for 2018.

I think that about covers it for now. According to this Chron story, the poll was commissioned by “a group of Texas House Democrats”. Wish I had more information about it, but that’s what I’ve got. I can’t wait to see what the next result looks like.

Precinct analysis: Third parties revisited

Politico has a question.

Is Austin’s Travis County the nation’s Libertarian Party stronghold?

The co-founders of a Libertarian political action committee based there make that case, arguing that the Texas locale is the “most Libertarian large county in America.”

Wes Benedict and Arthur DiBianca of Libertarian Booster PAC note that 31 Libertarian candidates were on the Travis County ballot this year, more than any other county in America. Among the other stats they cite:

  • Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson won 2.7% there, his highest percentage nationwide for large counties outside his home state of New Mexico.
  • Four Libertarians got over 40% of the vote for the portion of their district within Travis County
  • The current chairman of the national party, Geoffrey Neale, lives in Travis County, and 2004 Libertarian presidential nominee Michael Badnarik had previously run for office as a Libertarian in Travis County, and his presidential campaign headquarters were located in Travis County.

Their argument makes some sense – certainly there’s a strong libertarian bent in tech-heavy communities like Travis County.

We reviewed this before, and indeed Travis was the best county in the state for Johnson. It was also the second-Greenest county in the state, so I think it’s more a matter of iconoclasm than Libertarianism. For the record, those four Libertarians with over 40% of the vote were the candidate in CD17, plus three statewide judicial candidates. All were the sole opponents to Republicans, and I say that’s more about anti-Republicanism than pro-Libertarianism. Besides, as we’ve also seen, Libertarian Railroad Commissioner candidate Jaime Perez did better than that in several Latino-heavy counties, winning a majority of the vote in Maverick and Webb even though he also had a Green opponent. The simple fact is that in areas that are dominated by one party, Ls and Gs serve as the default option in races where that party isn’t represented. This doesn’t detract from the claim that Travis County has a large number of people willing to push the L button – relatively speaking, anyway – just that one needs to be aware of the qualifications.

Reading that story made me decide to go back to the Harris County precinct data to see where the Lib and Green friendly areas were. I broke this down into three sets of races, since obviously not every race featured an L and/or a G. The first set is the top of the ticket, the Presidential race and the Senate race. Here’s how the L and G candidates did in those races in each State Rep district:

Dist Johnson Stein J Pct S Pct Myers Collins M Pct C Pct ================================================================ 126 531 160 0.92% 0.28% 903 424 1.58% 0.74% 127 587 208 0.88% 0.31% 977 491 1.48% 0.74% 128 450 129 0.80% 0.23% 791 325 1.43% 0.59% 129 781 284 1.21% 0.44% 1,216 582 1.90% 0.91% 130 693 199 0.99% 0.29% 1,143 480 1.65% 0.69% 131 196 93 0.45% 0.21% 384 297 0.89% 0.69% 132 549 151 1.03% 0.28% 908 405 1.72% 0.77% 133 815 241 1.12% 0.33% 1,187 561 1.65% 0.78% 134 1,114 436 1.34% 0.53% 1,697 898 2.08% 1.10% 135 548 162 1.01% 0.30% 881 447 1.63% 0.83% 137 289 113 1.17% 0.46% 486 322 2.01% 1.33% 138 540 161 1.17% 0.35% 795 403 1.73% 0.88% 139 260 132 0.51% 0.26% 513 392 1.01% 0.77% 140 152 66 0.64% 0.28% 223 215 0.96% 0.92% 141 142 56 0.37% 0.15% 282 169 0.74% 0.45% 142 166 93 0.40% 0.22% 352 271 0.85% 0.66% 143 189 104 0.62% 0.34% 336 304 1.11% 1.01% 144 238 90 0.98% 0.37% 371 241 1.55% 1.01% 145 273 161 0.92% 0.54% 481 342 1.65% 1.17% 146 376 190 0.74% 0.38% 624 438 1.25% 0.88% 147 583 304 1.06% 0.56% 944 685 1.75% 1.27% 148 640 282 1.62% 0.71% 947 553 2.43% 1.42% 149 347 131 0.80% 0.30% 594 358 1.40% 0.84% 150 598 157 0.92% 0.24% 976 478 1.51% 0.74%

The percentages here are calculated from the four-candidate totals. For comparison purposes, Libertarian Gary Johnson had 0.93% overall in Harris County, and Green Jill Stein had 0.35%; in the Senate races, John Jay Myers had 1.54% and David Collins had 0.86%. Everyone who had HD148 as the most third-party-friendly district in Harris County, come forward and collect your winnings. You would have guessed HD134, am I right? That district isn’t as Montrose-y as it used to be, which I suspect is the reason for its runnerup status. At the other end of the scale, note how third-party-resistant the African-American districts were – all but HD147 were well below the countywide levels of L and G support. Republican districts in general were also third-party-averse, with only HDs 134 and 129 overperforming for them. This is what you should expect for Presidential and Senate races – as the highest-profile races, and the ones that tend to have the fewest undervotes, people are going to stick with their home teams unless they’re crossing over for a specific reason. Once we get past these races, however, it’s a different story. There were two other statewide races that had an R, a D, an L, and a G – the Railroad Commissioner race that featured Christi Craddick, Dale Henry, Vivekananda (Vik) Wall, and Chris Kennedy; and the Supreme Court race between Nathan Hecht, Michele Petty, Mark Ash, and Jim Chisholm. Here’s how that played out for the L and G candidates.

Dist Wall Kennedy W Pct K Pct Ash Chisholm A Pct C Pct ================================================================ 126 951 758 1.69% 1.35% 1,240 530 2.22% 0.95% 127 1,060 922 1.63% 1.42% 1,438 620 2.22% 0.96% 128 785 757 1.44% 1.39% 1,117 512 2.05% 0.94% 129 1,387 1,174 2.21% 1.87% 1,677 727 2.69% 1.17% 130 1,183 861 1.74% 1.26% 1,668 607 2.46% 0.89% 131 354 550 0.83% 1.28% 452 298 1.06% 0.70% 132 906 751 1.73% 1.44% 1,207 495 2.32% 0.95% 133 1,307 1,036 1.85% 1.47% 1,674 676 2.40% 0.97% 134 1,937 1,784 2.46% 2.27% 2,373 973 3.04% 1.24% 135 964 724 1.81% 1.36% 1,187 473 2.25% 0.90% 137 494 525 2.07% 2.20% 578 317 2.44% 1.34% 138 884 748 1.96% 1.66% 1,082 490 2.42% 1.09% 139 518 744 1.03% 1.47% 676 527 1.34% 1.05% 140 213 447 0.92% 1.94% 318 307 1.38% 1.34% 141 250 362 0.66% 0.96% 332 253 0.88% 0.67% 142 347 405 0.85% 0.99% 442 297 1.08% 0.73% 143 287 611 0.96% 2.05% 448 419 1.51% 1.42% 144 361 556 1.53% 2.35% 502 345 2.13% 1.46% 145 501 795 1.74% 2.77% 690 515 2.41% 1.80% 146 626 810 1.27% 1.65% 748 433 1.53% 0.88% 147 1,022 1,197 1.92% 2.25% 1,229 719 2.32% 1.36% 148 941 1,319 2.47% 3.47% 1,319 798 3.49% 2.11% 149 607 637 1.44% 1.51% 725 353 1.74% 0.85% 150 1,093 904 1.71% 1.42% 1,475 613 2.32% 0.97%

These results just fascinate me. The total number of L and G votes in each race was nearly the same – 38,476 in the RRC race, 36,993 in the Supreme Court race – but the distribution was completely different. Wall (19,036 for 1.65%) and Kennedy (19,440 for 1.68%) basically tied, while Ash (24,665 for 2.14%) doubled up Chisholm (12.328 for 1.07%). Look in each district, and you can basically see some number of people who voted for Kennedy in one race voting for Ash in the other? You may wonder why this is. It’s possible that Christi Craddick was more acceptable, and Dale Henry less so, to the “swing” third-party voters that otherwise vote R and D, with the reverse being true for Nathan Hecht and Michele Petty. There is something to that – Henry is on the verge of morphing into Gene Kelly, while Nathan Hecht has ethical baggage and nearly foisted Harriet Miers onto an unsuspecting US Supreme Court. The total number of voters involved here is tiny enough to include the possibility that they’re sophisticated enough to make such judgments. Personally, I think it’s more likely that we’re looking at roughly the same voters in each race, and that people picked Chris Kennedy over Vik Wall as their “none of the above” choice because Wall had a funny-sounding name. What do you think?

At the county level there were no four-way races, but there was a Green candidate running for Sheriff (Remington Alessi) and a Libertarian candidate running for Tax Assessor (Jesse Hopson). Here’s how they did in their respective races.

Dist Alessi A Pct Hopson H Pct =================================== 126 866 1.54% 1,291 2.30% 127 1,180 1.82% 1,632 2.51% 128 851 1.55% 1,156 2.12% 129 1,428 2.27% 1,866 2.98% 130 1,027 1.50% 1,695 2.50% 131 603 1.41% 534 1.25% 132 903 1.73% 1,294 2.49% 133 1,317 1.88% 1,804 2.58% 134 1,952 2.49% 2,458 3.15% 135 894 1.68% 1,279 2.42% 137 622 2.61% 695 2.93% 138 868 1.92% 1,225 2.73% 139 801 1.58% 844 1.68% 140 300 1.28% 357 1.55% 141 373 0.99% 366 0.97% 142 478 1.16% 497 1.21% 143 450 1.49% 488 1.64% 144 435 1.83% 524 2.22% 145 697 2.40% 777 2.71% 146 927 1.89% 895 1.83% 147 1,383 2.60% 1,369 2.58% 148 1,226 3.19% 1,437 3.79% 149 671 1.60% 834 1.99% 150 1,070 1.68% 1,547 2.44%

These are two different races, so Alessi and Hopson’s numbers aren’t directly comparable, but it’s still interesting to see them side by side. I take this as a data point in favor of the hypothesis that Libertarian candidates tend to draw support from Republicans; based on these numbers, they do so in somewhat greater quantity than Greens do from Dems. I wouldn’t draw too broad a conclusion from this sample – there was a lot of money in the Sheriff’s race, and that tends to minimize third party support. Then again, Alessi did actually campaign – if Hopson did, it was invisible to me – and there was some criticism of Sheriff Garcia from the left, so one might expect him to do better than a generic “none of the above” candidate. Make of it what you will.

I think that about runs me out of ideas for precinct analyses. One never knows where inspiration may strike, though, so don’t quote me on that. And there’s always next year, which is to say this year now. Until then, or until I come up with another angle at which to examine the data, we’ll call it a wrap on 2012.

The third parties

While I work my way through the precinct data in Harris County, we can keep looking at the county data for Texas from last week’s election. Here are the top and bottom ten counties by percentage of the vote for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson:

County Johnson % County Johnson % ============================================== Travis 2.72% Throckmorton 0.00% Hays 2.46% Brooks 0.25% Brewster 2.35% Kimble 0.32% Williamson 2.22% Lipscomb 0.34% Jeff Davis 2.02% Parmer 0.35% Bastrop 1.90% Refugio 0.37% Brazos 1.87% Bailey 0.39% Caldwell 1.84% Zapata 0.40% Terrell 1.80% Dimmit 0.41% Blanco 1.71% Deaf Smith 0.42%

Travis County is a hotbed for third-party voting, and apparently that fever has spread to some of its neighbors. My guess is that more people there consider their Presidential vote to be meaningless, so they feel freer to use it for personal expression. I will add that the #12 county on the “most Libertarian” list is Loving County, where Johnson collected 1.56% of the vote. Of course, there were only 64 total votes cast in Loving County (2010 population: 82 residents), so that 1.56% represents exactly one voter. How would you like to say that you’re the only voter of your kind in your entire county? For what it’s worth, Travis was the only blue county in the top ten, while Brooks, Zapata, and Dimmit are all deep-blue Rio Grande counties. Only Blanco County was more than 70% red, while five of the top ten counties were between 50% and 60% Republican; of the bottom ten counties, all but Refugio among the Republican counties were at least 70% so.

By the way, Johnson did something that no other Libertarian Presidential candidate had ever done in Texas: He got more than 1% of the vote, 1.10% to be exact.

Here are the same lists for Green Party candidate Jill Stein:

County Stein % County Stein % ============================================== Brewster 0.91% Loving 0.00% Travis 0.87% Hudspeth 0.00% Borden 0.83% Hemphill 0.00% Foard 0.81% McMullen 0.00% Presidio 0.66% Oldham 0.00% Dallam 0.65% Sherman 0.00% Kinney 0.63% King 0.00% Delta 0.59% Kenedy 0.00% Jeff Davis 0.59% Floyd 0.00% Blanco 0.58% Martin 0.00%

Note: that’s “Dallam” County in Stein’s top ten list, not “Dallas”. There is Travis again, giving Stein not just a relatively high percentage but also a huge share of her total vote: The 3,360 Greenies in Travis County represented nearly one-seventh of Stein’s final total of 24,450 votes. Only three other counties appeared on both Stein and Johnson’s lists, and outside of Travis they’re all small to tiny; besides Brewster (35 votes for Stein) and Blanco (29 votes), none provided more than 12 Green votes. Serendipitously, there were exactly ten counties that pitched a Green shutout. Hays (0.57%, #11 on the list) and Jefferson (0.13%) were the high and low Green scorers among counties with at least 100,000 registered voters, while El Paso (0.37%) and Fort Bend (0.21%) were at the top and bottom of counties where at least 100,000 votes were cast.

And finally, the same lists for John Jay Myers and David Collins, the Libertarian and Green candidates for Senate, respectively.

County Myers % County Myers % ============================================== Cottle 4.67% Glasscock 0.55% Brewster 4.62% Brooks 0.64% Travis 4.30% Sutton 0.70% Hays 4.21% Martin 0.71% Williamson 4.09% Jim Hogg 0.81% Hudspeth 3.96% King 0.82% Terrell 3.75% Dickens 0.83% Bastrop 3.53% Wheeler 0.83% Culberson 3.42% Rusk 0.85% Kenedy 3.29% Jefferson 0.96% County Collins % County Collins % ============================================== Maverick 2.34% Glasscock 0.00% Johnson 2.27% King 0.00% Presidio 2.09% Floyd 0.24% Jeff Davis 1.95% Borden 0.29% Brewster 1.87% Hartley 0.32% Culberson 1.85% Madison 0.32% Webb 1.84% Garza 0.34% Willacy 1.71% Hemphill 0.34% Loving 1.67% Lamb 0.35% Zapata 1.65% Camp 0.37%

There’s a lot of overlap between Johnson and Myers’ top lists – Hudspeth was #11 for Johnson, and Culberson was #26. Cottle and Kenedy are both tiny counties, and the differences are small but pronounced given the minimal number of voters. 31 people in Cottle votes Myers, but only 5 for Johnson, while in Kenedy it was 5 for Myers and 1 for Johnson. As for Collins, just as there was one Libertarian in Loving County, so is there one Green there. I wonder if they know each other.

Courting the Ron Paul voters

Good luck with that.

Libertarian presidential candidate and would-be spoiler Gary Johnson smoked out new campaign cash here this week.

But his hopes are just a pipe dream unless he wins over Republican voters loyal to never-say-quit candidate Ron Paul.

“Hundreds” of Republicans have promised Johnson they will switch his way if the Republican National Convention nominates Mitt Romney on Aug. 30, Johnson said Thursday.

“That’s hundreds telling me personally, which means how many more?” Johnson said during a six-day Texas campaign swing.

He predicted a “gigantic influx” of support after Romney is nominated.

[…]

Yet even before any Paul voters switch, his current 8 to 13 percent of the vote in Western states might be enough to tip pivotal Electoral College votes for or against Romney or President Barack Obama.

If Johnson takes away a swing state Romney badly needs — “then let me be the spoiler,” Johnson said.

This story is actually from two weeks ago. I’d forgotten that I’d drafted something, then had my memory jogged after the Ron Paulrelated kerfuffles this week. To put some context on Johnson’s numbers, there were 174,207 votes cast for Ron Paul in this year’s GOP Presidential primary. That would have represented 2.15% of the 8 million plus votes cast in 2008. That’s not very much, and that’s assuming every known Ron Paul supporter in May did in fact vote for Johnson in November. But even that paltry total towers over the past performances of Libertarian Presidential candidates in Texas:

Year Libertarians Pct =============================== 1992 Marrou/Lord 0.32% 1996 Browne/Jorgenson 0.36% 2000 Browne/Olivier 0.36% 2004 Badnarik/Campagna 0.52% 2008 Barr/Root 0.69%

The Secretary of State data don’t go back any farther than that, but thanks to Dave Liep’s Election Atlas, I can bring you the other two results:

Year Libertarians Pct =============================== 1980 Clark/Koch 0.83% 1988 Paul/Marrou 0.56%

I suppose you can look at Bob Barr’s 2008 performance as having doubled the Libertarian total in only eight years, or as finally getting back towards the high-water mark of 1980. Either way, I’ll bet the under on that 2.15% mark.