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John McCain

As goes Tarrant

The Trib ponders the one big urban county that is not like the others.

Among the state’s five biggest counties, Tarrant is the only one that hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate in the past decade. The 2016 presidential election heightened Tarrant’s status as an outlier. Even as the rest of the state’s big-city territories moved deeper into the Democratic column, Tarrant steadfastly emerged as America’s most conservative large urban county.

President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office this week, won the county by an 8.6-point margin. It was the narrowest win for a GOP presidential nominee in decades in Tarrant. But among the country’s 20 largest counties, Tarrant was only one of two that swung Trump’s way in November — and it had the wider margin.

Across Tarrant County, Democratic pockets are fewer and less powerful than their Republican counterparts. All four of the state senate districts that fall in Tarrant County are represented by Republicans. The GOP also holds eight of the county’s 11 state House seats. Four of the five county commissioner court seats are held by Republicans.

Residents, elected officials and experts here point to a nuanced union of demographic, cultural and political forces to explain why.

“There’s just all kinds of interesting numbers out there that make Tarrant County a lot different,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, the only Democrat holding one of the county’s five congressional seats.

Tarrant’s minority population, which tends to lean Democratic, hasn’t caught up to the state’s other big urban counties. At the same time, many Tarrant voters have a storied history of preferring practical governance to partisanship, according to officials and political observers. They say that helps support the moderate faction of the GOP, especially in Fort Worth, the nation’s 16th-largest city.

Then there’s the county’s development pattern. A lot of Tarrant remains rural. And, unlike Harris, Dallas and Travis counties, many of Tarrant’s affluent suburbs and conservative bedroom communities lie within its borders, not outside them. That’s helped give rise to the NE Tarrant Tea Party, a passionate and organized group that simultaneously supports far-right local candidates and serves as a powerful base for statewide Republicans.

[…]

Part of what has helped Tarrant become the state’s lone Republican urban county is that its minority populations, which largely and traditionally tend to lean Democratic, haven’t caught up to the state’s other big urban counties.

White residents’ share of the Tarrant population is falling, but it hasn’t declined as quickly as it has in Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar, said state demographer Lloyd Potter. The county’s Hispanic population is growing quickly, but it still lags behind the other big counties in terms of raw numbers, Potter added.

But that’s likely to change.

While Tarrant remains more white than Texas as a whole, it’s experienced a more significant drop in its share of white residents in the past 10 years compared to the state. In 2015, the county’s white population dropped to 48.5 percent — down from 56.4 percent in 2005.

Whites’ falling numbers in the county aren’t limited to its urban core in Fort Worth. In fact, the white population experienced a bigger drop in its share of the population in the suburbs from 2005 to 2015.

Here’s a fun fact, which I believe I have mentioned before: Tarrant County is a really good predictor of the overall Presidential race result in Texas. Witness the past four elections:

2004

Statewide – Bush 61.09%, Kerry 38.22%
Tarrant – Bush 62.39%, Kerry 37.01%

2008

Statewide – McCain 55.45%, Obama 43.68%
Tarrant – McCain 55.43%, Obama 43.43%

2012

Statewide – Romney 57.17%, Obama 41.38%
Tarrant – Romney 57.12%, Obama 41.43%

2016

Statewide – Trump 52.23%, Clinton 43.24%
Tarrant – Trump 51.74%, Clinton 43.14%

Almost spooky, isn’t it? One perfectly rational answer to the question “when will Texas turn blue?” is “when Tarrant County also turns blue”.

Anyway. The article is correct that Tarrant differs from the other big urban counties in that it’s actually a lot less urban than they are. Much of Tarrant is suburban, even rural, and that’s just not the case in Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis. Tarrant’s demographics are changing, as the story notes, but I have no idea if there’s anything to suggest its demographics are changing any faster than the state’s are. The statewide judicial races and the one contested district court race were all in the 13-16 point range, which is consistent with the statewide results. I wish I could say I saw something to suggest change was coming faster, but at least in the numbers, I can’t. Maybe someone who is more familiar with the county can chime in.

Having said all this, one big opportunity in 2018 is in Tarrant, and that’s SD10, the Senate seat formerly held by Wendy Davis. Even in the dumpster fire of 2014, freshman Sen. Konni Burton only won by nine points, with 52.83% of the vote. If 2018 is a less hostile year, this is a winnable race, and as I’ve said before, any competitive Senate race is a big deal. Whatever we can do to hasten change in Tarrant County, 2018 would be a good time to do it.

Races I’ll be watching on Tuesday, Legislative edition

vote-button

Here are the legislative races I’ll be looking at to see what kind of a day it has been for Texas Democrats. After the 2012 general election, the Dems had 55 seats in the Lege. Thee Democrats lost in 2014, lowering that total to 52. As things stand right now, Dems are at 50 seats, with one seat being lost early this year in a special election, and another later on to an independent in a special election that basically no one paid any attention to. I’m going to group the races into four tiers with decreasing levels of likelihood and expectation, and we’ll see where we might wind up.

Group 1: Back to parity

HD117 – Obama 2008 52.5%, Obama 2012 51.8%
HD118 – Obama 2008 55.1%, Obama 2012 55.2%
HD120 – Obama 2008 62.9%, Obama 2012 64.6%
HD144 – Obama 2008 48.0%, Obama 2012 51.0%

HDs 117 and 144 were the seats lost in 2014 (along with HD23, which is in a different category). HDs 118 (Farias) and 120 (McClendon) had specials due to the early retirement of their Dem incumbents. Note that Mary Ann Perez won HD144 in 2012 by 6.5 points over a stronger Republican opponent than the accidental incumbent she faces now. Phillip Cortez, running to reclaim HD117 after losing it in 2014, defeated a 2010-wave Republican by nearly eight points in 2012. I expect all four to be won by Democrats on Tuesday, which puts the caucus at 54.

Group 2: It sure would be nice to win these in a year like this

HD43 – Obama 2008 46.9%, Obama 2012 47.9%
HD105 – Obama 2008 46.1%, Obama 2012 46.5%
HD107 – Obama 2008 46.7%, Obama 2012 46.9%
HD113 – Obama 2008 46.1%, Obama 2012 46.3%

These are the white whales for Texas Democrats in recent elections. HD43 is home of the turncoat JM Lozano, who switched parties after the 2010 wipeout after having won a Democratic primary against an ethically-challenged incumbent in March. Now-former Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, who lost a primary in HD105 in 2014 to Rep. Rodney Anderson, had two of the closest victories in recent years, hanging on in 2008 by twenty votes and in 2012 by fewer than 800 votes. Similarly, Rep. Kenneth Sheets won in 2012 by 850 votes. The map designers in 2011 did a great job of keeping eight out of 14 districts in strongly Democratic Dallas County just red enough to win so far. I have to feel like this is the year their luck runs out. I’ll be disappointed if Dems don’t win at least two of these races, so let’s put the caucus at 56.

Group 3: Pop the champagne, we’re having a great night

HD23 – Obama 2008 47.5%, Obama 2012 44.2%
HD54 – Obama 2008 47.9%, Obama 2012 45.7%
HD102 – Obama 2008 46.6%, Obama 2012 45.3%
HD112 – Obama 2008 44.0%, Obama 2012 43.5%
HD114 – Obama 2008 46.6%, Obama 2012 43.5%
HD115 – Obama 2008 43.9%, Obama 2012 43.2%
HD134 – Obama 2008 46.5%, Obama 2012 41.7%

That’s most of the rest of Dallas County, the seat held by former Rep. Craig Eiland till he retired before the 2014 election, Rep. Sarah Davis’ perennial swing seat, and the Killeen-based district now held by the retiring Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock. It’s this last one that I think is most likely to flip; there were a few maps drawn during the 2011 session that made this a fairly solid blue seat. The main hesitation I have with this one is that I don’t know what kind of Dem infrastructure exists out there to take advantage of the conditions. Aycock never faced much of a challenge though he won in 2012 by the skinny-for-this-gerrymandering margin of 57.5% to 42.5%, partly because that district is off the beaten path for Dems and partly (I suspect) out of respect for Aycock, who was a really good Public Ed committee chair. If even one of these seats flip, I’d assume all four of the ones in the level above did, so we’ll increment the county to 59.

Group 4: Holy crap, how did that happen?

HD47 – Obama 2008 44.8%, Obama 2012 39.3%
HD52 – Obama 2008 46.2%, Obama 2012 42.4%
HD65 – Obama 2008 43.0%, Obama 2012 40.8%
HD85 – Obama 2008 40.7%, Obama 2012 38.0%
HD108 – Obama 2008 44.9%, Obama 2012 39.3%
HD135 – Obama 2008 38.7%, Obama 2012 39.8%
HD136 – Obama 2008 45.9%, Obama 2012 41.2%

Now we’re starting to get into some unfamiliar territory. HD47 is the lone Republican district in Travis County. Dems captured it in the wave of 2008 then lost it in the wave of 2010, and it was shored up as a genuine Republican district in 2011, with the side effect of making HDs 48 and 50 more solidly blue. HD108 is in the Highland Park part of Dallas, so who knows, maybe Donald Trump was the last straw for some of those folks. I’ve talked a few times about how HDs 135 and 132 were the two red districts in Harris County trended bluer from 2008 to 2012; I don’t expect it to go all the way, but I’ll be shocked if there isn’t some decent progress made. HD52 was won by a Dem in 2008 but was drawn to be more Republican in 2011. HD136, like HD52 in Williamson County, was a new district in 2012 and has been represented by a crazy person since then. HD65 is in Collin County, and HD85 is primarily in Fort Bend. Winning any of these would help tamp down the narrative that Dems are only creatures of the urban counties and the border.

If somehow Dems won all of these districts – which won’t happen, but go with it for a minute – the caucus would be at 73 members, which needless to say would have a seismic effect on the 2017 session and Dan Patrick’s ambitions. Putting the number above 60 would be a very nice accomplishment given all that’s stacked against such a thing happening, though it’s hard to say how much effect that might have on the session. Note that I have not put any Senate races in here. This is not because the Senate has a more diabolical gerrymander than the House does, but because the four most purple Senate districts – SDs 09, 10, 16, and 17 – were all up in 2014, and thus not on the ballot this year. You can bet I’ll be looking at their numbers once we have them.

There are a few districts that I would have included if there had been a Dem running in them (specifically, HDs 32, 45, and 132), and there are a few with numbers similar to those in the bottom group that I didn’t go with for whatever the reason. Tell me which districts you’ll be looking out for tomorrow. I’ll have a companion piece to this on Tuesday.

Early voting, Day Six: A good first week for Democrats

There’s still a week to go, but so far, so good.

EarlyVoting

Harris County residents cast more ballots in the first four days of early voting than five states did in the entire 2012 presidential election.

Locally, the number of ballots cast over those days was 45 percent higher than the same period four years ago. Other parts of the state, which sported the nation’s lowest turnout in 2014, have seen similar growth.

Now, the question is, will it continue? If it does, Harris County could see close to 1 million people – almost half its registered voters – cast ballots before election day.

“There’s so much more voting this time than we’ve ever seen,” said Richard Murray, a veteran pollster at the University of Houston.

[…]

“The first four days looked pretty good for local Democrats,” said Murray, who has studied Harris County voting patterns since 1966. “More female, more ethnic, less Caucasian.”

The county’s turnout so far has been 57 percent female, Murray said, compared with the typical 54 percent, which he called “probably something of a Trump effect.”

Stephen Klineberg, founder of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, said the county’s Democratic shift was a long time coming.

He pointed to a 2016 study by the Institute, which showed Harris County had been evenly split between Democrats and Republicans since studies began in 1984.

In 2005, 35 percent of respondents identified as Democrat and 37 percent identified as Republican. In 2016, 52 percent identified as Democrat and 30 percent as Republican.

That change was mostly due to population growth and changing party affiliation among Latinos, who make up 51 percent of the population under 20 in Harris County, he said.

“Pundits have been predicting this for years,” Klineberg said. “There are some indications that we are beginning to see signs of that inevitable transformation in this election year, earlier than most pundits expected.”

This Chron story goes into more detail about the gender mix of early voters so far. With maps, which everyone likes.

Of course, Latinos alone are not driving Harris County’s surging early voting turnout.

Some of the highest turnout has come from Houston’s suburban ring, including Katy, Cypress and Kingwood, areas with typically high Republican turnout.

“Everybody is voting,” Murray said. “It’s not that the Anglo vote has fallen, it’s just that others have risen more than they have.”

[…]

Democrats in general tend to lag in early voting, experts said. This year, Houston Democratic consultant Greg Wythe said, has been “pretty remarkably different from whatever happened in the past.”

“Normally, we’re losing at this point,” he said. An analysis of this week’s early voting results suggests 54 percent of turnout so far has been Democratic. That mirrors a recent poll by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs, which showed a slight lead or statistical tie for Democrats in countywide races.

Greg has been my source for the pronouncements I’ve made about how the first four days have been good for Dems. He tells me that Friday was also a good day, making the Dems five for five for that first week, and that early indicators are positive for Saturday as well. For what it’s worth, Saturday is usually the best day for Democrats during early voting. In 2014, the Saturday was about the only good day the Dems had. It may be that the pattern is different this year, I don’t know yet. I’m sure Greg will tell me when he knows for sure.

To put this in some perspective, here’s what the last two Presidential races looked like:


Candidate       Mail    Early    E Day    Total
===============================================
Romney        43,270  349,332  193,471  586,073
Obama         31,414  337,681  217,949  587,044

McCain        41,986  297,944  231,953  571,883
Obama         24,503  368,231  198,248  590,982

Mitt Romney was at 51.5% in early and absentee voting; Democrats caught up on Election Day and mostly won in the county. It was 2008 that was the big early voting year for Dems, as Obama carried a 53.6% lead into Election Day, then held on with both hands and Dems had basically run out of voters. Early voting has clearly gone well for Dems so far this year, apparently even better than it was in 2008. The question of who remains to vote on Election Day is one we can’t answer right now.

Of course, there are nearly 350,000 more registered voters in Harris County now than there were in 2008, and nearly 300,000 more than there were in 2012. We’ve discussed that before, and it is reasonable to expect that turnout would be up even without anything strange happening. A few turnout projections to consider:

61.99% of 2,234,678 = 1,385,276
62.81% of 2,234,678 = 1,403,601
63.00% of 2,234,678 = 1,407,847
64.00% of 2,234,678 = 1,430,193
65.00% of 2,234,678 = 1,452,541

The 2,234,678 figure is total registered voters in Harris County. Turnout in 2012 was 61.99%, and in 2008 it was 62.81%. The others are speculative. The point here is that turnout north of 1.4 million is hardly a stretch. and it’s not out of the question that from Saturday on there could still be a million people left to vote. We are, as they say, in uncharted territory.

The Day 6 EV totals had not arrived in my inbox by the time I went to bed. I’ll update this later when I have a chance and the data.

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.

It’s not crazy to think that a downballot Democrat could win statewide this year

I’ll get to that headline in a minute. I’ve got some reading to sort through first. We’ll start with the most pessimistic, or perhaps the least blue-sky, story of how things are likely to go.

Arizona. Georgia. Utah. Indiana. Is Texas next?

Across the country in recent days, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has suffered polling collapses in a slew of traditionally conservative states. The deterioration raises the question: Is Trump such a catastrophic Republican standard-bearer that Democrats could actually poach their ultimate white whale, the Lone Star State?

No.

That’s the consensus of a raft of state and national Democratic insiders who discussed with the Tribune the possibility of Hillary Clinton winning Texas in November.

“I think that it could set off a little bit of a panic among Republicans, but you’re not going to see banners flying and people marching into Texas saying, ‘We’re gonna turn Texas blue,'” said Matt Angle, a Democratic operative with Texas roots.

[…]

So, what would an incremental victory look like for Texas Democrats on Election Day?

Party infrastructure was the mantra in several interviews. The aim is to excite dormant Texas Democratic voters into volunteering for the first time in a generation, even if it is out of distaste for Trump. Even now, Texas volunteers are phone banking to battleground state voters elsewhere in the country.

“We know it’s going to be a multi-cycle endeavor, but these numbers reinforce that we are making significant movement, particularly with Texas’ diverse new majority,” said Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

State Democrats are also cautiously hopeful they can make gains in the Legislature, and maybe lay the groundwork for a viable campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 when he is up for re-election.

Amid the cautious optimism, Democrats are willing to concede that anything is believable given the erratic nature of the Trump campaign.

Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, an Arlington Democrat, echoed many Democratic insiders when he said he has heard no chatter about competing for Texas in the fall.

“This is a crazy election,” he said. “Anything can happen, but I still think Texas is a reach.”

A more optimistic take on where things stand.

The [PPP] poll shows Trump leading Clinton by a 44-to-38 percent margin, with his strongest support among senior-age Texans, especially men. Among that group, the New York business tycoon holds a 63-33 percent lead.

With voters under age 65, Clinton leads 49-35. For those under 45, she leads Trump 60-35.

Among nonwhite voters in Texas, Clinton has a 73-21 percent lead, according to the poll conducted by the Democrat-leaning polling firm Friday through Sunday of 944 likely voters; the poll has a margin of error of plus- or minus-3.2 percentage points.

That split, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who has studied how the changing generational demographics of voters affects elections, could be the most significant statistic from the poll and other recent surveys that have highlighted a similar trend in Texas.

“This election is an outlier because Trump in many ways transcends ideology and party,” Jones said. “The older the voters, the more likely they are to vote Republican. The younger the voters, the more likely they are to vote Democratic. And the Republicans’ base in Texas is growing older.”

[…]

Statewide, an estimated 14 million Texans are registered to vote, an increase of about 1 million voters over the last four years, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections. Whether those are new Republicans or Democrats or independents is unknown, and party affiliation is determined by which primary a voter casts his or her ballot.

Officials in fast-growing Williamson County, in staunchly conservative GOP territory just north of Austin, said their registration numbers are up significantly.

During the 2008 presidential race, Williamson County accounted for just more than 220,000 of the state’s registered voters. The most current figures put Williamson County’s voter total at 294,329.

In Fort Bend County, a fast-growing GOP suburban stronghold southwest of Houston, elections administrator John Oldham said registrations have grown by 25 percent since 2008. That has added nearly 100,000 new voters to the rolls in just under eight years, he said.

Oldham estimated that about half of recently registered have not had Anglo or Hispanic surnames. Many have last names traditionally associated with Asian, Middle Eastern and African heritages, he said.

“That’s where we’re seeing a lot of growth,” he said.

For Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, surburban areas like Fort Bend County are the places to watch in November.

“Republicans in Texas have dominated the suburban vote, and that’s been one reason for their success,” Rottinghaus said. “But in this election, Trump is doing poorly among these voters – the suburban women, college-educated voters who are younger. (Gov. Greg) Abbott and (U.S. Sen. Ted) Cruz still do well there, but crossover voting in the suburbs could cause a moment that might allow the Democrats to do better.

“That is how the Republicans got their foot in the door in congressional elections years ago,” he added.

And finally, an X factor to consider.

There are now 272 electoral votes in states that RCP rates as leaning toward Clinton, likely to go to her or solidly in her column. Another 112 come from states rated as tossups (plus Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, from which an elector is chosen independent of the statewide result). On Wednesday morning, Clinton had a lead in six of those eight states, including a statistically insignificant three-tenths-of-a-point edge in Deep South Georgia.

Furthermore, in talking to Democratic and Republican strategists in recent days, it has become clear that the polls could be significantly underestimating the Clinton margins that we’ll see on Election Day. Here’s why: Clinton has poured money into both television advertising and field organizing even in states where she has an outside chance of winning while Trump has been inactive.

Republican and Democratic experts in field organizing say that a tiptop organization can make a small but significant difference — maybe as many as four or five percentage points — in a particular state. That is, where Clinton’s building an operation and Trump isn’t, polls are likely underrepresentative of her strength.

In a chat last week on the social media platform Sidewire, former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn and GOP strategist Doug Heye lamented the absence of a Trump field operation on the ground in the battleground Hawkeye State.

“The boots have largely been outsourced to the RNC staff that’s been on [the] ground. They are hustling to staff up,” Strawn said. “And as everyone learned watching Hillary [and] Bernie battle during caucuses, if it comes down to mechanics versus message at the end … well, we know how that turned out.”

That last one isn’t about Texas at all, and it may be irrelevant to the discussion at hand, since Republican Presidential campaigns don’t bother investing in Texas for the same reason that Democratic ones don’t – there’s no reason to. But there is a correlation between the national level and the state level, and if there are concerns about Republican turnout nationally – and there are, and they go beyond worries about campaign infrastructure – then there are concerns about it here as well, if not necessarily as great.

Which leads me to a conclusion that I’ve seen only articulated once, briefly, in the Beatty memo, which is this: It’s not crazy to think that Texas Democrats could win a statewide race or two this November.

Note that I am not talking about the Presidential race. The Beatty memo suggests that the Railroad Commissioner’s race could go either way, as nobody knows who the candidates are. I’m thinking more about the races for Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, for which the Dems have a full slate of candidates. The same argument about nobody knowing who the candidates are holds, but there’s also the numbers, for all of these races.

Look at it this way: A six-point Trump win in Texas, which is consistent with that PPP poll, translates to roughly a 400,000-vote margin for Trump. To pick some numbers out of the sky, a victory by Trump of 4,000,000 votes to 3,600,000 votes – a drop of about 12.5% for Trump from Mitt Romney’s 2012 total, with an increase of about nine percent for Hillary Clinton over President Obama in 2012 – would translate to 52.6% for Trump to 47.4% for Clinton in a two-person race. That’s a little less than six percent, but grant me that much optimism. (For the record, 4.1 million votes for Trump to 3.6 million for Clinton would be 53.2% to 46.8%, or a 6.4 point difference, so assume we’re somewhere in the middle if you want.) All disclaimers aside, I think we can all agree that as things stand today, a result like this is in the ballpark.

Now here’s the thing: There’s always some level of dropoff from the Presidential level to the downballot level. In the three most recent Presidential elections, there has been much more dropoff on the Republican side than on the Democratic side.


2004

Bush -  4,526,917
Kerry - 2,832,704

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Carrillo      3,891,482   635,435    14.0%
Brister       4,093,854   433,063     9.6%
Keasler       3,990,315   536,602    11.9%

Scarborough   2,872,717       N/A      N/A
Van Os        2,817,700    15,004     0.5%
Molina        2,906,720       N/A      N/A


2008

McCain - 4,479,328
Obama  - 3,528,633

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Williams      4,003,789   475,539    10.6%
Jefferson     4,092,181   387,147     8.6%
Wainwright    3,926,015   553,313    12.4%
Johnson       4,018,396   460,932    10.3%
Price         3,948,722   530,606    11.8%

Thompson      3,406,174   122,459     3.5%
Jordan        3,374,433   154,200     4.4%
Houston       3,525,141     3,492     0.0%
Yanez         3,428,179   100,454     2.8%
Strawn        3,482,718    45,915     1.3%


2012

Romney - 4,569,843
Obama  - 3,308,124

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Craddick      4,336,499    233,344    5.1%
Hecht         4,127,493    442,350    9.7%
Keller        4,257,024    312,819    6.8%

Henry         3,057,733    250,391    7.6%
Petty         3,219,948     88,176    2.7%
Hampton       3,163,825    144,299    4.4%

Republicans did better in 2012 than in 2008, to which I attribute greater enthusiasm on their part, which led to more straight-ticket and general downballot voting. They obviously had a lot of enthusiasm in 2004, but they also had some crossover votes at the Presidential level, as well as (I believe) a decent number of people who turned out just to vote for President. Dems, on the other hand, had less dropoff in every race except one, and in most cases the difference between R dropoff and D dropoff was large. I attribute that in one part to good messaging about straight-ticket voting, especially in 2008, and one part being that if you bothered to show up and vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate in Texas, you were probably pretty committed to the party as a whole.

I think this year combines the lack of enthusiasm on the Republican side that we saw in 2008, plus the possibility of people showing up to just vote for Trump and nobody else, like in 2004. Against that, some number of people who normally vote for Republican Presidential candidates will do something else in that race this year, then vote normally after that. Put it all together, and I think the likelihood of Republican dropoff in the 2004 and 2008 ranges is a reasonably likely outcome this year.

If that is the case, and if we are indeed headed for a Presidential race with roughly a six-point differential between Trump and Clinton, then the math is clear. Four million less ten percent is 3.6 million, or what I’m projecting Clinton to get. Sure, there will be some Democratic dropoff as well, but you could have 11 or 12 percent loss on the R side, with only one percent or so for a given D. That will vary from candidate to candidate for reasons none of us can predict or will understand, but that’s my whole point: Under these conditions, we’re basically at a coin toss for downballot statewide races. And if that happens, we could see one or more Democrats squeak past their opponents and win their races. Looking at the numbers for the two most recent elections above, Sam Houston and Susan Strawn would have won in this environment, with Mark Thompson, Linda Yanez, and Michelle Petty (2012) falling just short. All they needed was for the Presidential race to have been sufficiently close.

Now as always, this comes with a pile of caveats – the election is still three months away, this is based on one poll, even a seven or eight point lead for Trump would almost certainly render all this moot, there could be a whole lot of Johnson-plus-downballot-GOP voters, etc etc etc. I’m absolutely not saying this will happen, nor am I saying it is likely to happen. I am saying it is possible, and conditions could become better for it rather than worse. I wouldn’t have said this a month ago, and the next poll result may make me want to throw this whole post into the trash, but my original statement stands: As things look right now, it’s not crazy to consider the possibility that at least one downballot statewide Democrat could win this fall.

So now that we’ve had this thought, what are we going to do about it? I’ll address that in the next post.

What the future may hold for Wendy Davis

Patricia Kilday Hart has her take on the Wendy Davis phenomenon, including the reaction of some Republicans to it.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

For both proponents and opponents of SB 5, the legislation that would have banned abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy and required costly upgrades to abortion facilities, one point was irrefutable: The filibuster created a new star for Texas Democrats.

“She’s the real deal. Humble beginnings … and she’s wickedly smart. The fact is, she does her best against the greatest odds,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. “Her future is whatever she wants it to be.” Agreed Sen. Rodney Ellis: “The sky is the limit.”

Republican campaign consultant Matt Mackowiak said Republican strategic errors carried a real cost for his party. “We now have a Wendy Davis problem,” he acknowledged. “We created an unbelievable opportunity to launch a first-tier Democrat.”

Still, given Davis’ liberal record and the state’s solid Republican bent, he said those who think a Democratic candidate can defeat Gov. Rick Perry or Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2014 are delusional. “I don’t think that person exists,” he said.

Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, a physician who challenged Davis’ position during Tuesday’s filibuster, agreed that better Republican planning could have prevented Davis’ moment in the limelight. He had advocated passing two other pieces of legislation, and adjourning, leaving the abortion bill for a second special session.

He also does not believe that Davis “will ever be governor of Texas.” In fact, she may have difficulty hanging onto her Texas Senate seat, when she runs in 2014 in a non-presidential year,” he said.

“Obama is not on the ticket,” he noted, and her last race was a tough, expensive ordeal.

Glad to know I’m not the only one who thought the Republicans’ strategy on Tuesday was nuts. But let’s knock down this idea that Davis necessarily has a harder time holding onto her State Senate seat next year because it’s not a Presidential year. You can find all the electoral reports for the State Senate map here – look for the RED206 Statewide files. Here are the best Democratic results in SD10 for each election going back to 2002:

Year Race R Vote D Vote R Pct D Pct ================================================ 2002 Lt Gov 92,324 81,771 53.0 47.0 2004 CCA 6 151,278 111,000 57.7 42.3 2006 Sup Ct 2 79,897 71,640 52.7 47.3 2008 Sup Ct 7 146,726 138,650 50.2 47.4 2010 Gov 90,897 76,920 52.7 44.6 2012 Sup Ct 6 143,816 128,484 50.8 45.4

2008 was less hostile to Dems than other years, but 2012 is basically on par with 2006 and 2002, in terms of margin of victory. 2012 was also a lot more challenging for Davis than 2008 was. John McCain won SD10 in 2008 by 15,000 votes and a 52.1 – 47.1 margin. Mitt Romney won SD10 by 23,000 votes and a 53.3 – 45.4 margin. Despite that, Davis won by 6,500 votes in 2012, which is almost as wide as the 7,000 vote margin she had in 2008, in a friendlier atmosphere. Turnout helped her in 2008, but it’s hard to argue it was much help 2012, as President Obama received 11,000 fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008 in SD10. Davis’ vote total, on the other hand, was nearly identical – 147,832 in 2008, 147,103 in 2012. She was one of only three candidates to win in a district that was not carried by her party’s Presidential candidate – Craig Eiland and Pete Gallego were the other two. She got 4,000 more votes than President Obama did in 2008, and a whopping 15,000 more votes than he did in 2012. That’s pretty strong evidence of her ability to attract crossover votes. Dismiss her if you want, but this is exactly the profile of someone who could be competitive statewide. Plus, as a plaintiff in the redistricting litigation, she offered to settle by accepting the 2012 interim map for the Senate. Maybe there’s some hubris in there, but if she thought she was doomed in 2014, I daresay she’d have continued to fight for more changes to the map. We already know she doesn’t back down from a fight, no matter how long and drawn-out it may be.

Now, this doesn’t mean that she couldn’t lose in 2014. SD10 is still a red-leaning district. If 2014 is a sufficiently GOP year, the hill could become too steep for her. Her elevated profile could work against her as well in that it might make her look more like a partisan Democrat to her Republican supporters, thus making her less attractive to them. It’s usually not that hard to convince people to vote for the home team. I suspect her profile is already pretty high in her district and the voters there already know what team she plays for, after two high-profile Presidential year elections, but crossover appeal can be a fickle thing. On the other hand, if she thinks there may be reason to be concerned about her prospects in SD10, that would serve as incentive to roll the dice on a statewide run. Be careful what you wish for, Sen. Deuell.

I suspect the bravado about her never being Governor masks a certain nervousness, too. Republicans must know that what happened on Tuesday is something they can’t control. Forget the political junkies and their yapping about parliamentary procedures, and forget the Internet junkies and their incessant memes. Focus on the fact that Wendy Davis is getting positive attention from lifestyle columnists and Amazon shoe reviewers, all of which will contribute to making Davis a known and likable figure among the lower-information folks. Don’t underestimate the power of the shoes here to help get the word out. If I hear my mother-in-law mention the name Wendy Davis, I’ll know for sure this is working.

On a more basic level, the fact that Rick Perry felt the need to take a cheap shot at her is mighty telling. As Wayne Slater notes, Perry has just elevated Davis to his political level, implying that she is this fearsome adversary he must fight. Not to mention the fact that he sounded like an arrogant, patronizing jerk – exactly the sort of behavior Kyrie O’Connor was talking about in her column. Maybe no one has ever told Rick Perry this, but the vast majority of women really really don’t like that kind of crap. Remember Sandra Fluke? Or Clayton Williams? During the marathon #StandWithWendy filibuster on Tuesday, I saw a tweet from someone who wondered how long it would be before Rush Limbaugh called Sen. Davis a slut. That hasn’t happened yet, but there are a lot of Rush acolytes out there, and I find it impossible to believe that one of them won’t follow Perry’s insult with something really nasty sooner or later. That sort of thing didn’t work out very well for the GOP in 2012. Davis herself was a beneficiary of that in her 2012 race. It’s fine by me if the GOP wants to go there. I just don’t think they’ve thought it through if they do.

Anyway. Sen. Davis has responded to Perry, and I’m quite certain this is not the end of it. Sen. Davis is leaving the door open to running for Governor in 2014. There’s certainly a lot of interest in her walking through that door. She’d need some stars to align for her to take that risk, but right now at least it looks to me like they just might be moving in that direction.

UPDATE: And when someone says something vile about Sen. Davis, Roy will be there to document it.

UPDATE: Fantasy casting the Wendy Davis biopic. Yeah, this is bigger than you think.

Taking back the Texas Senate

Colin Strother says the Democrats should not overlook opportunities to make gains in the upper chamber of the Legislature.

The conventional wisdom is that Democrats need a miracle to pick up any single seat, much less turn the chamber Blue. The numbers show this reaction is based more on assumptions rather than any empirical evidence.

Here are some districts that should be immediate targets:

Low-Hanging Fruit

SD9 Kelly Hancock (R) Non-White VAP*= 47% (272,400) 2012 Total Vote=233,577

SD16 John Carona (R) Non-White VAP= 47% (288,695) 2012 Total Vote=181,746

SD17 Joan Huffman (R) Non-White VAP=47.5% (287,575) 2012 Total Vote=238,707

*voting age population

First of all, I am well aware that a sole reliance on non-White voters would mean we need astronomical turnout (except in SD 16 where a mere 35% turnout of non-white voters bests Carona). Non-White voters are a piece of the puzzle–not the panacea some think it is. I am also aware that Romney rolled in these districts, as he did in 20 of the 31 districts.

It is also important to note that the 3 districts hold meaningful populations in counties that are nearly 100% Blue from top to bottom (Dallas & Harris), so we are not exactly talking about a handful of voters scattered across a 37-county district like District 31. We are talking about large concentrations of non-white voters in large, urban counties where active GOTV programs are already in place.

For the sake of comparison, SD 10′s non-white VAP is 47.3%, the 2012 total vote was 287,759, Romney won it in the mid-50s, it has numerous down ballot Democratic officeholders, and it holds a meaningful population in an urban county where active an active GOTV program is already in place. Basically, it looks identical to 9, 16, & 17 on paper. The only difference? We made SD 10 a priority, got a good candidate, dedicated the resources, and made it happen.

These 3 districts have good bones, a good bench, and access to existing infrastructure. For a party that desperately needs to grow its market share, these look like a good place to start. (I can assure you that when the Republicans swiped SD 3 in 1994 and SD 5 in a 1997 special, their numbers didn’t look this good.) With a dash of candidate recruitment, a splash of smart staffers, and a chunk of cash, Texas Democrats can be knocking on the door of a 16-15 minority status…not in 10 cycles, but in 2-3.

I looked at the Senate district numbers back in February, and while I agree with Colin about which ones are the most targetable, I’m less sanguine about our chances in the near term. As a reminder, you can find the 2008 results by district here, and the 2012 results here. The basics are as follows:

Dist McCain Obama McCain% Obama% ====================================== 09 145,020 103,614 57.8% 41.3% 10 158,677 143,651 52.1% 47.1% 16 161,779 129,105 55.0% 43.9% 17 174,371 124,939 57.8% 41.4% Dist Romney Obama Romney% Obama% ====================================== 09 142,499 94,117 59.3% 39.2% 10 155,936 132,707 53.3% 45.4% 16 159,759 116,603 57.0% 41.6% 17 178,241 117,562 59.4% 39.2%

I think you can only call SDs 9 and 17 “low hanging fruit” in the sense that there is no fruit besides those districts and SD16. Romney not only did better than McCain in all three districts – and in SD10, home of Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis, whom I include for perspective – he also had a wider margin in SDs 9 and 17 than he did statewide. Other than the fact that every other district is worse, one normally wouldn’t look at these and see much in the way of opportunity.

That said, Colin is right that we’re not going to get anywhere if we sit around waiting for easy races, and whether we run a decent statewide slate this year or not, we need to aim at some targets bigger than State Reps. If nothing else, the VAP numbers suggest there’s material here for Battleground Texas to work with. There is a huge benefit for each additional Senator – among other things, without Sen. Davis, we wouldn’t have been able to block all those awful abortion bills this session – and the Senate is a great proving ground for future statewide campaigns. Even as longshots, there’s enough value in a Senate seat to support any good candidate.

It may be instructive to review Sen. Davis’ two wins to see what we can learn from them for future campaigns. A lot of stars came into alignment in 2008. It all began with Wendy Davis, who was an excellent candidate and who has proven to be an outstanding Senator, but equally important is the fact that she was available and ready to take on the race in the first place. She was a term-limited Forth Worth City Council member, so had no incumbency to lose by filing for another office. That’s an important consideration when you remember that the bulk of our up and coming stars are State Reps, who would be giving up their seats to challenge a Senator in a regular election. She went up against an ethically-challenged incumbent, which is always a bonus. The seat was clearly winnable and was seen as such, which surely helped Davis with fundraising and campaign energy. And of course, 2008 was a pretty good year for Democrats – no doubt, Davis was helped by the Obama surge.

As an incumbent herself in 2012, Sen. Davis needed less help, but she still got a gift in the form of her opponent, then-Rep. Mark Shelton, who was one of only a handful of House members to vote against a bill by Davis to provide state grant money to local law enforcement agencies to help clear rape kit backlogs. It was such a bad vote that even Sen. John Cornyn, who was sponsoring similar legislation in Washington, couldn’t defend it. Votes like that are an oppo researcher’s dream, and making it in the same cycle that gave us the likes of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock was icing on the cake. We know Sen. Davis drew crossover support in her successful re-election bid. I don’t have polling data handy, but I’d bet good money a significant chunk of that crossover support came from female voters.

So what lessons can we take from this? Well, first and foremost, the best candidate is no help if he or she is unavailable or unwilling to make the race. We all agree that the future of the Texas Democratic Party is largely in the House, but we can’t expect tomorrow’s stars to risk that status on races where they’d be big underdogs. That means we need to be thinking outside the box for potential Senate candidates, and as a corollary to that it means getting involved in city, county, and school board races, where new talent can be incubated and other offices can at least some of the time be explored because there’s no filing conflict.

Two, it means seek out candidates that can best exploit the weaknesses of the incumbents. In the case of SD09, Sen. Kelly Hancock is a slash-and-burn teabagger, and I’m sure his House record will show plenty of anti-education votes, and surely more than a few anti-women votes. A female candidate with an education background, perhaps a school board member, would be high on my list. Sen. Joan Huffman is coming off a session where she carried a lot of water for the prosecution lobby, and got was responsible for an emotional outburst by the brother of Tim Cole, the man who died in prison after being convicted of a crime for which he was later exonerated. Here, a person of color with a background in criminal justice reform and/or innocence advocacy would be ideal. Do such people exist? Very likely. Is anyone talking to them about their future in politics? Very likely not.

And three, keep focus on the stuff we’re already working on, or at least that we say we’re working on. Register those unregistered folks, and engage them in a manner that will get them to the polls. Remind our Presidential year voters that we need them in other years, too. Figure out why Texas Democrats aren’t doing as well with female voters – specifically, Anglo female voters – as Democrats elsewhere. I’m thinking Wendy Davis and her campaign team might have some insights of value there. As Colin says, this isn’t rocket science. I’ve given Battleground Texas plenty of goals already, but taking back at least one Senate seat this decade needs to be on that list. The targets may not be easy, but they are there. We just have to make sure we take our best shots at them.

Precinct analysis: Comparing 2012 and 2008

Though the data isn’t yet posted on individual members’ webpages, I have gotten a copy of the 2012 election results by State Rep district, for which there was much rejoicing. The first question of interest is how much the 2008 results resembled the 2012 results in each district. I went by vote percentages as reported – that is, including third-party candidates – and compared Mitt Romney’s 2012 percentage in each district to John McCain’s 2008 percentage, and Obama 2012 to Obama 2008. I did this by taking the ratio of the 2012 percentage to the 2008 percentage. Statewide, Romney was three percent better than McCain – i.e., the ratio of Romney’s percentage (57.16) to McCain’s (55.45) is 1.03 – and 2012 Obama (41.38) was five percent worse than 2008 Obama (43.68), for a ratio of 0.95. If the difference were uniformly distributed around the state, you would expect Romney to have a 1.03 ratio in every district, and 2012 Obama to have a 0.95 ratio. Obviously, that didn’t happen, so I was interested in the places where each candidate did the best compared to 2008. Here’s a look at them:

Dist McCain Obama Romney Obama R ratio D ratio ==================================================== 108 53.86 44.88 58.97 39.30 1.09 0.88 047 53.85 44.75 58.03 39.31 1.08 0.88 055 60.67 38.13 65.29 32.99 1.08 0.87 134 52.46 46.48 56.37 41.72 1.07 0.90 017 56.54 41.93 60.56 37.15 1.07 0.89 045 51.66 46.72 55.17 41.82 1.07 0.90 136 51.81 45.92 55.06 41.22 1.06 0.90 023 51.35 47.77 54.56 44.24 1.06 0.93 064 56.98 41.84 60.28 37.32 1.06 0.89 114 52.36 46.57 55.21 43.47 1.05 0.93 048 37.53 60.77 39.55 56.84 1.05 0.94 052 51.93 46.18 54.69 42.40 1.05 0.92 012 59.77 39.38 62.59 36.18 1.05 0.92 093 57.57 41.60 60.19 38.25 1.05 0.92

There were a number of other districts in which Romney ran at least five percent better than McCain – remember, that’s 5%, not five percentage points – but I’m really only interested in the reasonably competitive ones. Rep. Craig Eiland is the only member of the House to win a district that was not carried by his party’s Presidential candidate; I’m pretty sure Sen. Wendy Davis can say the same thing for her chamber, but I don’t have those numbers just yet. The only other Democratic district represented above is Rep. Donna Howard’s HD48, though it wasn’t enough of a difference to be worrisome to her. That chart has a lot of good news for the Republicans, since it contains a number of their least-safe seats. Many of these seats will still be hotly contested in 2014 – where else are Democrats going to go to add to their delegation? – but the GOP starts out with a bigger cushion than they might have expected.

And here are the districts of interest that were more Democratic in 2012:

Dist McCain Obama Romney Obama R ratio D ratio ==================================================== 145 41.99 57.13 38.27 60.25 0.91 1.05 144 51.04 47.95 47.86 50.76 0.94 1.06 034 46.63 52.58 44.23 54.62 0.95 1.04 149 43.84 55.52 41.79 57.08 0.95 1.03 119 40.30 58.59 38.51 60.15 0.96 1.03 125 40.69 58.14 39.51 58.99 0.97 1.03 135 60.56 38.71 58.82 39.85 0.97 1.03 132 59.68 39.59 58.90 39.75 0.99 1.00 118 43.86 55.10 43.33 55.22 0.99 1.00 105 52.69 46.14 52.11 46.46 0.99 1.01 113 53.00 46.05 52.51 46.30 0.99 1.01 107 52.25 46.71 51.81 46.87 0.99 1.00

Again, I excluded the non-competitive seats. As above, mostly good news for Dems and their least-safe members, Eiland excluded. In two HDs where Democratic challengers ousted Republican incumbents (HDs 34 and 117), plus the open HD144, Dems had an easier time of it than you would have thought. There’s also some hope for pickups in 2014 or beyond, mostly with the three Dallas County seats.

Looking ahead to 2014, here are your “swing” districts, for some value of the term “swing”.

Dist McCain Obama Romney Obama Hecht Petty ===================================================== 017 56.54 41.93 60.56 37.15 53.13 40.61 064 56.98 41.84 60.28 37.32 57.23 36.38 094 59.62 39.45 60.27 38.09 57.45 37.73 093 57.57 41.60 60.19 38.25 57.17 37.98 097 57.62 41.41 59.55 38.91 57.30 38.25 138 59.30 39.82 59.16 39.29 57.48 39.00 108 53.86 44.88 58.97 39.30 58.66 36.49 132 59.68 39.59 58.90 39.75 57.32 39.41 135 60.56 38.71 58.82 39.85 57.09 39.77 096 57.97 41.39 58.58 40.20 55.68 40.73 047 53.85 44.75 58.03 39.31 55.30 37.87 065 56.11 43.04 57.51 40.83 55.62 39.89 032 56.40 42.57 56.91 41.43 52.98 42.12 134 52.46 46.48 56.37 41.72 56.41 39.30 115 54.91 43.86 55.37 43.08 53.74 41.67 114 52.36 46.57 55.21 43.47 54.98 41.33 045 51.66 46.72 55.17 41.82 51.11 41.39 136 51.81 45.92 55.06 41.22 51.07 40.33 112 54.89 44.03 55.01 43.48 53.01 42.79 052 51.93 46.18 54.69 42.40 50.70 42.05 023 51.35 47.77 54.56 44.24 49.41 46.77 102 52.18 46.64 53.01 45.31 52.01 43.53 054 51.20 47.93 52.90 45.73 49.92 45.71 113 53.00 46.05 52.51 46.30 50.34 46.10 105 52.69 46.14 52.11 46.46 49.18 46.28 043 51.45 47.94 52.05 46.92 46.72 49.10 107 52.25 46.71 51.81 46.87 49.73 46.29 144 51.04 47.95 47.86 50.76 44.08 52.33 117 46.49 52.52 46.71 51.84 43.46 52.79 034 46.63 52.58 44.23 54.62 40.11 56.07 078 43.64 55.31 44.05 54.29 40.84 53.47 118 43.86 55.10 43.33 55.22 38.76 57.79 041 42.16 57.05 42.28 56.54 38.86 57.22 149 43.84 55.52 41.79 57.08 40.46 56.95 074 41.15 57.91 41.51 56.93 36.18 57.25 148 41.43 57.49 41.07 56.58 38.79 55.59 048 37.53 60.77 39.55 56.84 37.43 54.95 125 40.69 58.14 39.51 58.99 36.03 60.35 050 38.01 60.27 38.78 57.75 36.33 56.25

Again, note that no one but Eiland won in a hostile district. Turncoat Republican JM Lozano gets partial credit for Michelle Petty’s plurality vote in HD43, but that’s at least partly a function of the unusually high Libertarian vote in that race, which generally suppressed Nathan Hecht’s percentages. Note how much more Hecht diverges from Romney than Petty does from Obama to see what I mean. Without factoring possible turnout differences into account, Dems have maybe six viable flip opportunities – Lozano, four Dallas seats, and HD54 – while the GOP has one clear shot and two other good ones. That’s assuming no further changes to the map, which may or may not be a good bet. Beyond that, we’ll have to see what the march of demographic change looks like and whether there’s anything to all this talk about investing in Texas Democratic infrastructure.

Precinct analysis: Obama v Obama

So as mentioned before I now have a draft canvass for Harris County. There’s a lot of data to go through, and I’ll probably publish most of what I find after the holiday. One thing I’d like to share for now is a comparison of how President Obama did in the various redrawn districts versus how he was predicted to do based on 2008 results in the precincts that make up these districts. In the table below, reading from left to right, “Romney” and “Obama” give the two-party percentage of each candidate’s vote from 2012, while “McCain” and “Obama” do the same for 2008. Third party votes and undervotes are ignored, this is just a straight up comparison of the ratio of GOP votes to Obama votes.

Dist Romney Obama McCain Obama ======================================== CD02 63.93% 36.07% 62.32% 37.68% CD07 60.87% 39.13% 59.22% 40.78% CD18 23.06% 76.94% 23.02% 76.98% CD29 33.40% 66.60% 37.32% 62.68% SBOE6 60.67% 39.33% 58.88% 41.12% SD06 32.86% 67.14% 36.08% 63.92% SD07 67.64% 32.36% 65.32% 34.68% SD15 40.26% 59.74% 39.68% 60.32% HD126 62.85% 37.15% 62.32% 37.68% HD127 70.07% 29.93% 68.32% 31.68% HD128 73.15% 26.85% 70.42% 29.58% HD129 65.59% 34.41% 62.88% 37.12% HD130 76.92% 23.08% 74.50% 26.50% HD131 15.80% 84.20% 18.00% 82.00% HD132 59.71% 40.29% 60.12% 39.88% HD133 68.58% 31.42% 65.37% 34.63% HD134 57.51% 42.49% 53.02% 46.98% HD135 59.63% 40.37% 61.01% 38.99% HD137 34.75% 65.25% 37.14% 62.86% HD138 60.13% 39.87% 59.82% 40.18% HD139 23.79% 76.21% 24.10% 75.90% HD140 29.26% 70.74% 33.36% 66.64% HD141 12.13% 87.87% 14.40% 85.60% HD142 22.12% 77.88% 21.41% 78.59% HD143 32.18% 67.82% 35.45% 64.55% HD144 48.53% 51.47% 51.56% 48.44% HD145 38.87% 61.13% 42.36% 57.64% HD146 20.26% 79.74% 21.43% 78.57% HD147 20.62% 79.38% 19.07% 80.93% HD148 42.08% 57.92% 41.88% 58.12% HD149 42.28% 57.72% 44.12% 55.88% HD150 69.39% 30.61% 68.09% 31.91%

In case you’re wondering, the 2008 data comes from the FTP directory of the Texas Legislative Council – click on the plan in question (note: C = Congress; E = Education, as in State Board Of; H = House; S = Senate), then Reports, then your preferred format, then finally on the link that has “RED206_2008G_Statewide” in it. The districts I analyzed are ones that are entirely contained within Harris County. There’s no point in comparing, say, the results in SD17 or HD36 to the TLC reports, since these districts run into other counties and thus would render such a comparison moot.

The first thing that should strike you is that the map-drawers knew what they were doing. There’s not a lot of variation between what was predicted based on 2008 results and what actually happened in 2012. Romney generally did a little better than McCain in Republican districts. The exceptions are HDs 132 and 135 where he underperformed by a little, and HD134 where he had his biggest gain over McCain. Obama generally did a little better in the Democratic districts, with his biggest gains in the Latino districts. I have not gotten far enough in the analysis to determine how Obama did compared to other countywide Democrats in these districts – as we know, he lagged behind other Dems in Latino districts in 2008, but what we see here is consistent with what we saw in heavily Latino counties around the state. I’ll come back to this issue later after I’ve filled in more of the blanks.

While I haven’t yet completed filling in the relevant numbers for other candidates on the countywide ballot, I can compare Obama to the relevant Democratic candidate for each of these districts. Here’s how that looks, omitting candidates such as Rep. Gene Green who were not challenged by a Republican:

Dist Candidate Votes Pct ================================= CD02 Daugherty 80,262 33.49% CD02 Obama 88,451 36.07% CD07 Cargas 85,253 37.44% CD07 Obama 92,128 39.13% CD18 Lee 145,893 77.11% CD18 Obama 149,775 76.94% SBOE6 Jensen 207,697 40.58% SBOE6 Obama 215,053 39.33% SD06 Gallegos 93,136 70.94% SD06 Obama 89,584 67.14% SD07 Texas 90,606 31.59% SD07 Obama 93,774 32.36% SD15 Whitmire 135,595 62.34% SD15 Obama 131,838 59.74% HD127 Pogue 19,389 29.77% HD127 Obama 19,660 29.93% HD134 Johnson 36,366 45.66% HD134 Obama 34,561 42.49% HD137 Wu 15,789 65.72% HD137 Obama 15,899 65.25% HD144 Perez 12,425 53.47% HD144 Obama 12,281 51.47% HD149 Vo 25,967 61.12% HD149 Obama 24,770 57.72% HD150 Neal 19,308 30.30% HD150 Obama 19,668 30.61%

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see longtime officials such as Sens. John Whitmire and the late Mario Gallegos overperform. Voters tend to be happier with their own representatives than with whatever legislative body those representatives belong to. I figure good constituent service accounts for a lot of that. In fairness, I note that Republicans Dan Patrick, Ted Poe, and John Culberson also appear to have beaten the spread, something Culberson decidedly did not do in 2006 and 2008.

I noted Traci Jensen’s challenge before the election, and unfortunately she was not able to eat into that 100,000 vote deficit that she faced. I think a 2008 level of turnout on the Democratic side would have added a couple thousand more votes to her total and pushed her into the “overperformer” group. Her two-party percentage was a bit higher than Obama’s despite her lower raw vote number due to larger influence of third party candidates in her race and probably more undervoting on the Republican side. The SBOE, like the Senate, has everyone run in the first post-redistricting election, then they draw lots to see who goes again in two years and who gets to wait for four. I hope the latter is the case for SBOE6, and I hope that 20+ years of unopposed Republicans someone continues Jensen’s work in the next election.

Ann Johnson in HD134 also faced an uphill climb, which turned out to be steeper than we thought. She did do what she needed to do – she collected some 2000 crossover votes in outperforming Obama by three points – it just wasn’t enough. Unlike many legislative districts, HD134 does not get noticeably bluer in presidential years – if anything, based on what we saw from 2006 and 2008, it gets a little redder – so it’s likely the case that 2014 at least won’t be any harder than this year was. It’s all about working to change people’s minds, which may be easier after another legislative session. We’ll see about that. Johnson ran a strong race, the wall was just too high for her. Mary Ann Perez also did very well running in a district that turned out to be a little more friendly than we originally expected. The boost Obama got from Latino voters likely helped, but she went above and beyond that. If the district isn’t redrawn by the San Antonio court, Perez will surely face a strong challenge in 2014, but she’s already proven she can swim against the tide. As for Gene Wu in HD137, there’s nothing I can say that Greg hasn’t already said, so go read him.

I do have data about the County Commissioner precincts, but this post is long enough. I’ll get to that and to other matters in subsequent entries. Let me know what you think about this.

First pass at analyzing the 2012 results

This is kind of a brain dump, based on the information available now. I’ll have plenty more to say once precinct data has been released.

– The current tally in the Presidential race on the Secretary of State webpage, with comparison to 2008, is as follows:

2008 Votes Pct =========================== McCain 4,479,328 55.45% Obama 3,528,633 43.68% 2012 Votes Pct =========================== Romney 4,542,012 57.19% Obama 3,285,200 41.36%

Slight uptick for Romney over McCain, slightly larger downtick for Obama. My sense is that this is mostly a turnout issue, that Obama’s coalition was mostly intact but not quite as fired up as in 2008, much like what we saw nationally. I think that’s fixable, but it’s going to take the same thing to fix it (money money money) as it has always been. I mean, Team Obama invested millions in a turnout operation in various parts of the country, and by all accounts it was successful. What effect might that have had here? I hope someday to find out.

– For all my skepticism of the polling in Texas, the pollsters were fairly in the ballpark on Romney’s margin of victory. I have to say, had you told me on Monday that Romney was going to win here by 16 points, I would never have believed that Wendy Davis and Pete Gallego would have won, and I would have doubted Dems’ ability to win the four contested seats in the Lege that they did. But they did, which is both a tip to the skill of the redistricters and a reminder that things could have been better. Overall, I’d grade it as a B- for Texas Dems – the Davis, Gallego, and Craig Eiland wins were huge, but there were missed opportunities, especially in Harris and Dallas Counties, where too many judges lost in the former and two Democratic legislative challengers fell just short in the latter.

– I don’t want to dwell too much on the legislative races, since we’re going to get a new map once the San Antonio court incorporates the DC Court’s ruling into their lawsuit, but there will clearly be more opportunities in 2014. Still, it should be apparent by now just how steep the hill is. Dems came close to parity in the Lege last decade in large part to a sizable rural contingent and an ability to win seats in otherwise-Republican districts. Well, the rural Dems are virtually extinct, and outside of Davis and maybe Eiland I doubt there were any crossover stars this time around; I’ll know for sure when I see precinct data. I still think there will be opportunities for both based on the forthcoming school finance ruling and 2013 legislative session, but we’re a long way from each and candidates still need to be found.

– One question I had going into this race was how well Obama would do in predominantly Latino areas. In 2008, Obama lagged behind the rest of the Democratic ticket in these areas, possibly due to lingering resentment over Hillary Clinton’s loss to him in the primary, but as we know Democrats nationally and Obama specifically have seen Latino support go up since then. Here’s a quick and dirty comparison to 2008 in some heavily Latino counties that will have to do until I get precinct data:

County 08 Obama 12 Obama 08 turnout 12 turnout ======================================================== Cameron 64.08% 65.72% 43.37% 41.46% El Paso 65.87% 65.63% 47.67% 44.58% Hidalgo 69.01% 70.42% 42.83% 45.59% Maverick 78.20% 78.60% 40.43% 37.84% Webb 71.44% 76.56% 44.40% 44.28%

Nice gain in Webb, modest gains in Cameron and Hidalgo. It’s a start.

– Congressional loser Quico Canseco is whining about fraud.

Gallego finished 13,534 votes ahead of Canseco early Wednesday morning.

“The race is not over, and it won’t be until all votes are properly and legally counted,” Canseco said in a statement the morning after the election.

Gallego campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna said there is “no way” voter fraud occurred. “This just shows a lot about [Canseco’s] character, because he chose to go this route” rather than concede and congratulate Gallego, she said.

Canseco’s campaign alleges that officials in Maverick County double- or triple-counted some of the early vote sheets. A complaint to the Secretary of State indicates that Canseco’s campaign found a minimum of 57 duplicate votes when reviewing a list provided by the Maverick County Elections Office. The campaign also alleges that another county used photocopied ballots, a criminal offense, and that an extended delay in counting votes from other counties left “other questions unanswered.”

“There are too many disturbing incidents to declare this race over,” Scott Yeldell, Canseco’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “During the next several days we will be looking into these reports to assure only legal votes have been counted in this election.”

But Acuna said even if all the votes from Maverick County — where Gallego received 6,291 more votes than Canseco — were excluded, Gallego still would have come out ahead. “His argument — it’s not at all valid,” she said. “We won this race; it’s simple math.”

I don’t expect this to go anywhere.

– In Harris County, those last nine precincts were finally counted. Obama’s margin of victory in the county inched up to 585 votes, but as far as I can tell none of the downballot races were affected. Obama’s total was down about 6000 votes from 2008, while Romney improved on McCain by about 13,000 votes. Still, as noted in the comments yesterday, provisional ballots have not yet been counted, and overseas ballots are still arriving, Judges Kyle Carter (1,499) and Tad Halbach (2,786) had the smallest margins in those races, while Mike Sullivan also had a close shave, winning by 2,498 votes and a 48.94% plurality thanks to the presence of a Libertarian candidate that received 2.34%. I still don’t think any races are likely to change, but I daresay all three of these gentlemen will not rest easy until the counting has truly ceased.

– I have to mention a couple of national stories. First, Tuesday was a great day for marriage equality.

Voters in Maryland and Maine legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote Tuesday, the first time in U.S. history that gay marriage has been approved at the ballot box.

In Maryland, voters approved marriage equality 52 percent to 48 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. The state government passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, but opponents succeeded in putting the issue on the ballot in November.

“Over these past few weeks, Marylanders joined together to affirm that for a free and diverse people of many faiths — a people committed to religious freedom — the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a champion of marriage equality in the state, said in a statement late Tuesday.

The AP also declared Maine voters had approved same-sex marriage Tuesday after defeating a referendum on it just three years ago, a sign of how quickly Americans’ views on the issue are evolving. With 57 percent of precincts reporting, the ballot measure led 54 percent to 46 percent.

In a third victory for gay rights advocates, Minnesota voters defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, according to CNN and the AP. Thirty other states have gay marriage bans on the books, including North Carolina’s, approved as recently as May 2012.

Proponents of marriage equality were still hoping Wednesday for a fourth victory in Washington, where a measure to approve gay marriage was still too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

Remember when this was an issue used to bludgeon Democrats? Never again, and thank goodness for it.

Poor John Cornyn. At the beginning of this year, you could have gotten lower odds on the Astros winning the World Series than the Democrats not only holding the Senate but making gains. Yet that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s clear that with our losses in the presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party,” the Texas Republican said in a statement released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he directs. “While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.”

As of early Wednesday morning, Democrats (with an assist by an Independent in Maine) had picked up four Republican seats while losing just one of their own. Not a single Democratic incumbent was defeated.

Cornyn, who hopes to win a party leadership position in the new Congress, is now explaining the reasons for the 2012 failure.

“We know that our conservative vision is the right one to secure a stronger America for future generations,” Cornyn said in his statement. “We know that we are the party of big, bold ideas with the courage to fight for what’s right even if it’s not politically expedient. It was that courage and that vision that led to important gains for our party in 2010. But all of us should continue to learn from both our victories and our defeats, and work together to build an even stronger Republican Party.”

Basically, the Republicans had first and goal at the one yard line. Then, after a false start, two quarterback sacks, and an intentional-grounding penalty, their 50-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Elizabeth Warren, and returned for a touchdown by Joe Donnelly. The Democrats then added insult to injury by going for two and converting successfully. You just cannot overstate the degree and the stunningness of the turnaround in fortune. And if Big John thinks that the Republicans should just keep doing what they’ve been doing, well, I won’t try to persuade him otherwise.

– Other results of interest: The city of Austin will adopt City Council districts, while League City banned red light cameras. At least some things never change.

That’s all for now. PDiddie, Mark Bennett, Murray Newman, Harold Cook, and TM Daily Post have more, while Texas Parent PAC takes a victory lap.

UT/TT: Romney 55, Obama 39

Here are some new poll numbers for Texas from UT and the Tribune.

Republican Mitt Romney has a commanding lead over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race in Texas, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The survey of likely voters found that 55 percent support Romney while 39 percent support the incumbent. The remaining 6 percent said they support someone else.

The survey results illustrate the continuing dominance of the GOP in Texas — Republican John McCain got 55.5 percent of the Texas vote in 2008, to Obama’s 43.7 percent — and illuminate a significant gap in Texans’ feelings about national and state officeholders and government.

“At the top of the ticket, in the big marquee races, there are no surprises,” said Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin, heads the Texas Politics Project there and co-directs the poll. “We see the basic structure of the state, in terms of partisanship, pretty stable.”

Numbers in the U.S. Senate race were similar to those in the top contest, with Republican Ted Cruz holding 54 percent of the support to Democrat Paul Sadler’s 39 percent, according to the poll. John Jay Myers, the Libertarian candidate, had 3 percent, and Green Party candidate David Collins had 2 percent.

[…]

Republican Christi Craddick held the lead in the contested race for Texas Railroad Commission, with 50 percent of the support to Democrat Dale Henry’s 36 percent.

“What you have in these results is a pretty decent idea of what a Democrat with warm blood and a pulse can get in Texas,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of political science at UT-Austin.

Actually, I suspect that what these results give is about five to eight points below what a Democrat with warm blood and a pulse can get in a non-2010 year, but as they say, the only poll that matters is taking place right now. The poll’s summary is here and the description of its methodology is here. I don’t think the connection to YouGov had clicked with me until I looked at that. This result is similar to but not the same as the recent YouGov result we saw. For comparison, here’s the May UT/TT poll that had it at Romney 46 – Obama 38 among registered voters but 55-35 when their ridiculously restrictive “likely voter” screen was applied, and their February poll back when the nominee was not yet decided. Of somewhat peculiar interest is that the February poll asked respondents how they voted in 2008, and the result was McCain 46 – Obama 39. The May poll had no such question, but this one did, and the result there was McCain 43 – Obama 40. That would translate to a 52-48 McCain win if you filter out the “other” and “didn’t vote” respondents – and by the way, if you simply used these people as your “likely voter” screen for this poll, it would be a sample size of about 665, considerably larger than the 540 actually used. That suggests two possibilities to me: One, Obama has lost a number of supporters from 2008. The Wilson Perkins poll suggests that possibility as well. And two, the “likely voter” screen they used screened out a disproportionate number of Obama supporters. The overall sample is 65% white, which is perfectly reasonable, but we don’t know what the screened sample looks like. If it’s anything like that crappy Lyceum poll, with it’s 5% African-American share, you can see how things might get wacky. For what it’s worth, Greg says that Harris County’s early vote pattern is suggestive of 2008 so far. You can make up your own mind. As I said, we’ll have a fact check on this soon enough.

Early voting, one week in

We have completed one full week of early voting, and through Sunday a total of 362,827 people had voted in person, with an additional 53,131 ballot being cast by mail, for a grand total of 415,958. The updated spreadsheet is here for your perusal. For comparison, there were 314,252 in person ballots cast through Sunday, 2008, so this year represents a 15.5% increase in non-absentee early votes. Another way to look at it is that there were 1,892,65registered voters in 2008, and this year there are 2,003,436 registered voters, which is 5.8% more. If the increase in early voting turnout were driven entirely by the increase in voter registration, we would have had 332,479 early votes by now. The actual total of 362,827 is therefore an increase of 9.1% over what might have been expected.

Again, all this suggest what we are seeing is the new normal. The totals are high-water marks, but they’re not a quantum leap like what we saw in 2008. It’s not out of the question to me that we could see the pace of early voting slack off a bit next week, with 2012 numbers losing some of their lead over 2008 numbers. I’m confident that 2012 will have more early voting, even accounting for registration growth, but the percentage margin may be less at the end of this week than it is right now. Just a feeling, I have no objective evidence for this. We’ll see.

One more thing to talk about is not just how many people are voting early, but which people are voting early. In 2004, 45.5% of all straight-ticket Republican votes and 43.8% of George W. Bush’s votes were cast early, while 40.7% of both straight-ticket Democratic votes and John Kerry’s votes were cast early. In 2008, those numbers were 61.6% of straight-ticket Republican votes and 59.4% of John McCain’s votes, and 66.6% of straight-ticket Democratic votes and 66.4% of Barack Obama’s votes were early. I suspect in the end that the share of each party’s early votes will be about the same, and at least as high as the Democratic share was in 2008. And, as foolish as it is to make predictions this far out, I suspect we’ll see the same sort of behavior in 2016.

YouGov: Romney 55, Obama 41

YouGov has an updated poll of Texas.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney gets a solid majority of the votes of likely voters over Democratic President Barack Obama in Texas, 55% Romney to 41% Obama, in a YouGov poll of 958 likely voters from the Lone Star state (recontacted from an initial September poll).

In the race for Senate, Republican Ted Cruz holds a 51%-36% lead over Democratic candidate Paul Sadler in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

[…]

Sampling method: Respondents were initially selected on September 7-14 from YouGov’s panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by age, gender, race, education, and region) was selected from the 2005–2007 American Community Study. Voter registration, turnout, religion, news interest, minor party identification, and non-placement on an ideology scale, were imputed from the 2008 Current Population Survey Registration and Voting supplement and the Pew Religion in American Life Survey. Matching respondents were selected from the YouGov panel, an opt-in Internet panel.

Respondents were recontacted on October 4-11 for the second wave of the YouGov poll. The percentage of likely voters who were successfully recontacted was 83.4%.

Weighting: The sample was weighted using propensity scores based on age, gender, race, education, news interest, voter registration, and non-placement on an ideology scale.

Number of respondents: 958 likely voters. Margin of error ±4.5% (adjusted for weighting).

The September result they refer to above showed Romney leading by a 52-41 margin. If I understand their methodology correctly, they asked the same people from September again in October, and applied a likely voter screen, the details of which they do not share. After fiddling around with a margin of error calculator, I estimate they had a weighted sample size of about 475.

Here’s their September data and here’s their October data. If you just look at the unweighted numbers on page 3 of each, the results are very similar. In September, 500 out of 1087 unweighted respondents (46.0%) said they voted for Obama in 2008, and 487 out of 1090 unweighted respondents (44.7%) said they were voting for Obama this year. Putting it another way, Obama’s 2012 level of unweighted support was 97.1% of his 2008 level of unweighted support. In the October sample, 385 out of 874 unweighted respondents (44.1%) said they voted for Obama in 2008, and 391 out of 906 unweighted respondents (43.2%) said they were voting for Obama this year. Putting that another way, Obama’s 2012 level of unweighted support was 97.8% of his 2008 level of unweighted support. How they get from there to those weighted numbers, I got no clue. I presume some of that weighting is to correct for the oversample of white voters (74.2% in September, 75.8% in October), but the final, weighted racial distribution is unknown. For what it’s worth, Obama did better among Hispanics in the unweighted October sample than he did in September (61-35 versus 55-33) but worse among independents (39-48 versus 40-40). Make of all that what you will. It’s another data point, and I’ve added it to the sidebar.

One more thing to note is that I can’t recall seeing any mainstream media coverage of either of the two YouGov polls. That crappy Lyceum poll was cited everywhere, and the Wilson Perkins poll got a lot of play, too. Of course, they’re both in-state pollsters, and they clearly did a fair amount of publicity of their efforts, whereas if it hadn’t been for the Tuesday night dKos elections polling wrap I’d have had no idea about the new YouGov numbers. To me, that says that YouGov needs to do a better job letting people (i.e., the media) know they’re out there, and the media needs to broaden their web horizons.

Mail ballots

Campos has been tracking mail ballot requests to the Harris County Clerk.

Here is what the County put out yesterday evening:

As of this evening we have approved 71,101 applications and sent out 67,376 ballots. We have received 19,468 voted ballots returned.

25,848 have been generated by the GOP and 20,866 by Dems.

In an earlier entry, Campos noted that “In 2008 in Harris County, 76,187 requested mail ballots and 67,612 (88.7%) were returned and counted. In 2010 in Harris County, 69,991 requested mail ballots and 55,560 (79.4%) were returned and counted.”

So 55.3% of the ballots that have been requested by people with an identifiable primary voting history are going to Republicans. Out of curiosity, I looked at the two most recent Presidential-year elections in Harris County for a point of comparison. In 2004, 29,926 absentee ballot voters went for George W. Bush, and 17,010 went for John Kerry. That’s 63.8% for Bush. In 2008, the numbers were 41,986 absentee voters for John McCain, and 24,503 for Barack Obama; that’s 63.1% of absentee votes for McCain. Already we have more absentee ballots requested with more than a week to go before early voting starts than were cast in 2008, and about as many that can be identified by party primary voting as were cast in 2004. We don’t know how many of those requesters from each group will actually return their ballots, and we don’t know how many of those 19,000 or so non-primary voters really belong to each party, but early on at least it looks like Democrats may have closed the absentee gap a bit. Whether that means anything for the final totals I couldn’t say – it’s entirely possible that most if not all of the new absentee ballot requesters are folks who would have voted in person anyway, in which case this is just shifting things around a bit. I make note of this because I’m a numbers guy and these are some interesting numbers. Are you voting by mail this year, and if so have you done it before? Leave a comment and let us know.

New pollster says Romney leads 55-40 in Texas

It would figure that the day after I complain about a lack of polling data in Texas we get a fresh poll result for the state.

Thanks to a lopsided lead among white voters, Romney is leading President Barack Obama 55-40, according to a poll from Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, which carries out surveys for GOP candidates. That’s even higher than John McCain scored against Obama in 2008.

Chris Perkins, who is a partner at the research firm and served as the pollster for U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Cruz in his Republican primary victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, said he expected a better showing for Obama after the Democratic National Convention.

The three-day telephone poll of likely Texas voters was conducted Sunday through Tuesday, plenty of time for any post-convention glow to reach the electorate.

“I thought the Obama number would be a little bit better,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t there. It’s kind of lining up to what 2008 did — if not better — for McCain.” McCain beat Obama 55-44 in Texas in 2008.

The survey showed Romney with 32 percent of the Hispanic vote, which mirrors national Latino numbers for the Republican candidate in the wake of his party’s convention in Tampa, according to a recent poll. Romney got only 6 percent of the African American vote in Texas, compared with 90 percent who favor Obama.

But Romney’s lead over Obama among white voters in Texas is nothing short of overwhelming — 77-17 percent in the survey — which helps to explain why Republican candidates are maintaining their electoral advantage here even as the minority population explodes.

The full poll data can be found here. This is the first general election poll result from this outfit that I’ve seen, so I don’t know what their overall track record looks like. I will say that I don’t have any particular criticisms of their methodology. Their partisan and racial splits look reasonable – if anything, they slightly oversampled Latinos, at 26% of the total – and their sample voted for McCain over Obama by 55-44, also perfectly reasonable. The difference maker isn’t so much the white vote as it is the change from the 2008 vote. Page 4 of that crosstabs file tells the story. Of 552 McCain voters, 511 were voting for Romney, 20 for Obama, and 21 were neither. Of 442 people who said they voted for Obama in 2008, 380 said they were voting for him again, but 40 were voting for Romney, and 22 were neither. It’s those 40 switchers that depress Obama’s numbers; if he had the same 20 lost voters as Romney had, the result would be 53-42 instead.

So the question is whether this is a fluke or a real thing. To take a genuine stab at answering that we’d need – you guessed it – more data. I can tell you that in that May UT/Texas Trib poll, Romney led Obama among white voters by a 65-24 margin, and in that April PPP poll, he led 61-33 among whites (scroll to page 19), which was the best showing among Republican candidates (Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul were also tested) and was in line with Obama’s 33-62 approval rating among whites. Is it possible that Obama’s support among Anglo voters could have collapsed that much since then? Sure. Is it likely? I’m always suspicious of results that stand out that much from others in the absence of an easily identifiable cause. I don’t reject this out of hand, but I am dubious.

Another way to look at this is to observe that if Romney were leading among white voters by a margin of 65-29, which is in between the UT/TT and PPP results, this race becomes a near dead heat: Romney drops to 48.4%, versus Obama’s 46.9%. Imagine the headline with that result. Even if he wins whites in this sample by 70-24, his lead is a mere 51.2-44.0, which is almost exactly the same margin that PPP found back in April. That would make the remarkably large Latino share of their sample all the more vital. If Republicans really do have to run up the score that much among white voters, you have to wonder how sustainable their edge will be.

What tf this result is indeed accurate? Does that portend doom for downballot Democrats? I’m sure it’s not good for Paul Sadler and the other statewides in that case – I checked, they either didn’t ask about the Senate race or they did not include those results if they did ask – but beyond that it’s not clear. It seems to me that the two most likely parts of the state where Obama might have lost white voters are the rural areas, and some of the suburbs. In the rural areas, Obama generally underperformed the rest of the Democratic ticket in 2008. The easiest way to see this is to scroll through the 2008 Senate results by district. If Obama has fallen further among these voters – there’s only so much more he can go down – then he probably is dragging other Democrats with him, but outside of the statewides and maybe Nick Lampson, there’s hardly anyone else for him to affect. In the suburbs – and here I mostly speak of Collin, Denton, and Williamson Counties – Obama ran ahead of the other Democrats. If he’s lost support here, he’s lost it among people who mostly voted Republican otherwise. One place where that could have an effect is in Wiliamson County’s HD136. In 2008, Diana Maldonado also ran ahead of other Dems as she scored a historic win in HD52 (see page 41 here). As we saw, Obama did better in the new HD136 than other Dems in 2008. It will undoubtedly be to Matt Stillwell’s advantage if Obama hasn’t lost his touch there.

Anyway, as noted it’s one result, and it would be nice for there to be something contemporary to which to compare it. A few other observations from the poll:

– The poll has a breakdown by voting history, and somewhat unexpectedly Obama does better among those who say they have voted in all of the last four elections than the other three subgroups, trailing by a 54-43 margin.

– Going by age groups, Obama does best among those aged 55-64, trailing 52-46. He wins among all women 55 and older, 51-46. He does worst among voters 18-34, losing them 58-35. Color me dubious of that one as well.

– Geographically, Obama wins “Austin” 58-40, loses “San Antonio” 60-38, loses “Houston” 51-42, and loses “Forth Worth” 52-44. I put them in quotes because these are clearly shorthand for the greater metro regions of each – “Houston” accounts for 23% of the sample, which would be a vast overstatement otherwise, as Harris County accounted for less than 15% of the total vote in 2008. “Fort Worth” was 30% of the sample, so this is clearly the entire Metroplex. “Austin” and “San Antonio” were an identical 80 voters each, or a smidge less than 8% of the sample each. Obama carried Bexar County in 2008, so I’ll chalk that up to small sample size weirdness.

Finally, on a tangential note, on the same day this came out I received a campaign email from Paul Sadler announcing that a “new poll” showed a “path to victory” against Ted Cruz. This was a campaign fundraising email, not a press release, so I have no useful numbers to share, but the clear message was that Sadler was competitive among voters who heard his message. Of course, the problem all along is how to get that message out to the voters. You can help by attending our fundraiser on Monday the 24th. It’s big hill to climb but there’s no reason not to try.

“Waiting for Godot” in Texas

I have three things to say about this.

“It’s only a matter of time.”

For more than a decade, that thought has provided solace to the out-of-power Democrats who dream of turning Texas blue, much like it was before Ronald Reagan won the state in 1980. The appeal for Democrats is obvious. If President Obama, for example, were somehow able to carry Texas and its 38 electoral votes, the electoral math would become very difficult for Mitt Romney.

A Democratic-leaning Texas may seem like a dream, but for years such a shift has appeared almost inevitable. The Hispanic population in Texas (38 percent) is the second largest in the nation, and it is growing quickly. The African-American population (12 percent) has kept pace with the state’s overall growth. And non-Hispanic whites have been shrinking as a share of the population.

In fact, sometime after 2000, non-Hispanic whites became a minority in the state. They now make up just 45 percent of the population, making Texas the only majority minority state that reliably votes Republican.

Yet, for all the talk of a politically competitive state, the Republican grip on Texas has never loosened.

“We’ve had this discussion for 10 years now, and nothing has changed,” Mr. Miller said.

“There’s been a ‘Waiting for Godot’ nature in terms of Democrats and Latinos here,” Mr. Henson said.

1. I just don’t know how much value there is in trying to predict Texas’ electoral future right now, because the evidence is muddled or lacking. No two elections of the past decade were remotely similar, so there are no patterns to discern. Polling data is a joke – if you look at the Five Thirty Eight projection for Texas, the three samples being used are the two bizarrely-screened UT/TT polls, which project a Romney blowout, and a PPP poll showing a much closer race, one that looks a lot like 2008. No poll is more recent than May. We may not have any idea what Texas will look like until voting actually begins. If Obama can get the margin to under ten points, which requires an improvement of less than two points on his part over 2008, I think we’ll be having a much different discussion than what we’re having now. If not, then it’ll be much harder for people like me to refute the conventional wisdom.

2. Silver’s observation that as Tarrant County goes, so goes Texas is spot on, at least as far as 2008 went:

Obama McCain ======================== Texas 43.68% 55.45% Tarrant 43.73% 55.43%

Hard to argue with that. Again, I’ll be very interested to see how it looks this year.

3. I maintain that money is a key part of the equation here, and I find myself puzzled at the animus that some folks have to this. If we believe that doing the same thing over and over again in hope of a different result is ill-advised, then I would maintain that trying to win elections while hopelessly outgunned financially is something we have already decisively shown to be a bad idea. The hard work of organizing, identifying and registering new voters, then getting them to the polls, is not going to be done by an army of volunteers. It’s going to take permanent, paid, professional staff to do that. Communicating a message takes money, too. I’m fully aware of the corrosive effects of money in politics. I’d love to see more public financing available for qualified candidates, and I’d love to see far more restrictions on PACs and corporate contributions, but as long as Citizens United is the law of the land I have no idea how to achieve that, and I refuse to unilaterally disarm in the meantime. Last I checked, even Green Party candidates were holding fundraisers – I know, because I’ve been invited to at least two of them – so it’s not really a question of whether or not money is needed. I want the national Democratic party to spend money in Texas, which some people think may be on the horizon, and I make no apologies for that.

A look at HD136

The Statesman takes a look at the new State Rep. district in Williamson County.

Matt Stillwell

All county and state elected officeholders from Williamson County are Republicans. The party has long dominated the area. But Democrats are eyeing the new district as a potential weak spot in the Republican stronghold, counting it among a handful of districts they hope to take in November.

The race is a high priority, said Bill Brannon, executive director of the state Democratic Party.

“I would say it’s either top tier or very, very close to top tier — it’s a high target,” Brannon said. “It’s a race that presents a lot of opportunities.”

The Democrats hope that [Matt] Stillwell, a father of three who owns an insurance agency and has never held elected office, can beat out Republican candidate Tony Dale and Libertarian Matthew Whittington for control of House District 136. The new district covers portions of Northwest Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, Round Rock and the Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District.

[…]

Democrats say demographics in the newly drawn district provide an opportunity for the party.

According to data from the Williamson County Elections Department, more than a third of registered voters in the district live in Austin and nearly 20 percent of them are 30 or younger — a group that generally leans left.

The party sees the district as a possible repeat of Democratic state Rep. Mark Strama’s 2004 grab of a northern Travis County seat.

Strama, who still holds the seat immediately south of House District 136, said that like the new district, his was drawn for an easy Republican win.

“Frankly it was hard to convince anybody it was a winnable race — which I think is the challenge Matt has now,” Strama said.

Growth in the area — especially in Pflugerville — from Central Austin, as well as California and other states, made his district more Democratic than anyone realized at the time, Strama said.

HD136 is a race that isn’t quite on the radar. It’s a second tier Back To Blue race, outside observers like Robert Miller have not taken it into account. The numbers are daunting but not overwhelming, and there is certainly some hope that the landscape has changed. A comparison of the 2004 and 2008 numbers is instructive:

2004 Bush Kerry Keasler Molina ================================== 63.8% 36.2% 63.2% 36.8% 2008 McCain Obama Wainwright Houston ================================== 51.8% 45.9% 51.2% 42.9%

Data can be found here and here; both links are XLS files. The dropoff from Obama to Sam Houston is mostly accounted by the 5.9% received by the Libertarian candidate in that race. The difference between the two years is striking, and it’s magnified by the raw vote totals. John McCain barely beat George Bush’s number – McCain received 32,977 votes, Bush got 32,413 – but Obama’s total was more than fifty percent greater than John Kerry’s – Obama got 29,227, Kerry just 18,403. I’m sure some of that was “surge”, and maybe that will be hard to repeat, but still. That’s a huge difference. Part of Stillwell’s challenge is identifying and reaching out to the new voters in the district, and part is making sure that those who vote for Obama stick around for him as well – Sam Houston’s vote total, by contrast, was only 25,734, a much bigger decrease from Obama than Dale Wainwright’s 30,696 was from McCain. The comparison to Rep. Mark Strama, who won a rapidly-changing district in 2004 that had been thought to be solidly red in 2002, is instructive, but there is one key difference here: Stillwell has a lot less money than Strama did at the time. Maybe that’s why this race isn’t as high profile. Keep an eye on this one, though, it could easily be a surprise on November 6.

Sadler’s challenge

Democratic Senate hopeful Paul Sadler is a strong candidate with limited resources. Where have I heard that before?

Paul Sadler

In Victoria on a recent Saturday afternoon, the candidate for the U.S. Senate had the crowd on its feet, the shouts and applause washing over the meeting room like waves on the nearby Gulf. As he wrapped up his 15-minute jeremiad warning of the havoc his opponent would wreak on the Lone Star State and, as he began making his way to the back of the room, shaking hands and posing for photos along the way, an older woman in a red pantsuit sought to recapture the crowd’s attention.

“This campaign costs money,” she shouted into the microphone several times, but only those within a few feet of her were listening. One of them eventually doffed his straw hat, which became a makeshift collection basket for a statewide campaign tossing nickels and dimes at an opponent awash in money and nationwide ardor.

The Victoria experience represents the Paul Sadler campaign in miniature. Little-known statewide and underfunded, the lawyer and former state representative from Henderson is a capable campaigner, an experienced lawmaker and a credible candidate for a party desperately in need of new faces and arresting ideas.

Sadler’s problem, of course, is that his GOP opponent, tea party darling Ted Cruz, has been all but anointed the successor to retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Cruz has money, star power and the overwhelming advantage of being a Republican in the most fervid of red states. In last month’s Senate runoffs, 1.1 million Texas Republicans cast a ballot, compared to 235,000 Democrats.

I’m going to begin by going off on a tangent here. I don’t know exactly how one defines fervidness in this context, but at least by 2008 results, Texas isn’t the reddest of red states. It’s not even in the top half, if one uses margin of victory as the metric. Here are the 2008 results by state. I’ve helpfully plucked out the states carried by John McCain and sorted them by margin of victory below:

State Obama McCain Margin ================================= Wyoming 32.54 64.78 32.24 Oklahoma 34.35 65.65 31.29 Utah 34.22 62.24 28.02 Idaho 35.91 61.21 25.30 Alabama 38.74 60.32 21.58 Alaska 37.89 59.42 21.54 Arkansas 38.86 58.72 19.85 Louisiana 39.93 58.86 18.63 Kentuky 41.15 57.37 16.22 Tennessee 41.79 56.85 15.06 Nebraska 41.60 56.53 14.93 Kansas 41.55 57.37 14.92 Mississippi 43.00 56.17 13.17 W Virginia 42.51 55.60 13.09 Texas 43.63 55.39 11.76 S Carolina 44.90 53.87 8.98 N Dakota 44.50 53.15 8.65 Arizona 44.91 53.39 8.48 S Dakota 44.75 53.16 8.41 Georgia 46.90 52.10 5.20 Montana 47.11 49.49 2.38 Missouri 49.23 49.36 0.13

Fourteen states were redder than Texas in 2008. Even in 2004, when George W. Bush was running for re-election and beat John Kerry by 22 points here, Texas was only the tenth-reddest state. Now I admit that even an 11.76 point margin is still daunting, and if you go by vote margin instead of percentage margin Texas was indeed the reddest state in 2008 – McCain got 950,000 more votes than Obama; only Oklahoma and Alabama had margins greater than 450,000 – but that’s a function of population, not popularity. I mean, Alabama and Oklahoma had barely more total votes for both candidates combined than Texas had for just Obama. If fervidness is a synonym for intensity, then Texas was at best #15 for the GOP in the last Presidential election.

But numbers are one thing, perception is another, and the perception that Texas is as red as it gets is a big factor working against candidates like Sadler and other Democratic statewides. Fundraising is obviously affected by this – it’s one thing to give to an underdog, another to a hopeless cause. I believe Sadler is the former, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is by cohosting a fundraiser for him on Monday, September 24 at the Continental Club. There obviously isn’t much time for fundraising at this point, and I don’t even know what a realistic target that can make a meaningful difference might be, but I do believe a difference can be made. If you think so as well, come out and help the cause and meet the candidate on the 24th at the Continental Club. Thanks very much.

The Trib’s strange samples

Here’s the UT/Texas Trib poll result the Trib should have reported:

Q19. If the 2012 general election for U.S. president were held today and Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee, would you vote for [randomize] Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, someone else, or haven’t you thought enough about it to have an opinion?


1. Mitt Romney              46%
2. Barack Obama             38%
3. Someone else              9%
4. Haven’t thought about it 
enough to have an opinion    8%

That’s in line with other polling. It translates to a 55-45 Romney win in November, which I daresay would not surprise anybody. But that’s not the result that was reported. This is the result that was reported:

Likely Voters (n=511; MOE=+/- 4.34%)


1. Mitt Romney              55%
2. Barack Obama             35%
3. Someone else              7%
4. Haven’t thought about it
enough to have an opinion    3%

The poll data is here and the Trib story is here. As was the case with their previous poll, I’m at a loss to understand how they arrived at that second sample. This time they at least give an explanation for their screening methodology:

The UT/TT internet survey of 800 Texas voters was conducted May 7-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points. Questions asked only of Republican or Democratic voters have larger margins of error, as indicated. And “likely voters” were defined as those who indicated they were “somewhat” or “extremely” interested in politics and who voted in “every” or “almost every” election in recent years.

Eighty-six percent of their sample claimed to be “somewhat” (38%) or “extremely” (48%) interested in politics, while 67% of the sample said they voted in “every” (32%) or “almost every” (35%) election “in the past two or three years”, which is how the question was phrased. Given that so many more people vote in Presidential elections than in any other kind of election – turnout for the just-completed Austin Mayoral election was expected to be around ten percent; I’m pretty sure it will be considerably higher than that this November – it makes no sense to me to exclude the respondents who had voted in “about half” (13%) or “one or two” (11%) of the elections in the past two or three years. Those were non-Presidential year elections. Does anyone really believe those people would have voted in 2011 or 2010 but won’t vote this year? It beggars the imagination. I understand the reasons why pollsters want to construct a “likely voter” screen. I’m just saying that this one looks awfully restrictive to me. On a side note, unlike last time this poll did not ask people how they voted in the 2008 Presidential election. The February sample went for John McCain by a 46-39 margin. Steve Singiser has more.

Finally, I see that the Burnt Orange Report has finally done what I’ve been begging some pollster to do, which is to ask Republican voters if they’d vote for Rick Perry or Greg Abbott in a hypothetical 2014 cage match. Click over to see their answer. Since this is apparently my week for getting poll-related requests fulfilled, let me now implore BOR to do a Presidential general election survey so we can have a third data source besides UT/TT and PPP. Thanks.

Santorum surges in January UT/Trib poll

There will come a day when using the word “surge” to describe the now-frontrunning Republican Presidential candidate in Texas will get old. That day has not arrived yet.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has a commanding lead among Republican presidential candidates in Texas, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Santorum would get the votes of 45 percent of the respondents if the election were held today, according to the survey. The other three candidates in the GOP race — former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas — are clustered well behind. Gingrich got 18 percent, Romney received 16 percent and Paul garnered 14 percent.

The presidential race in Texas remains highly volatile, and the numbers could change significantly between now and the state’s primaries. They were originally scheduled for March 6 — early voting would have started this week — but have been delayed by redistricting litigation. Texas still doesn’t have all of its congressional and legislative maps in place, and May 29 appears to be the earliest possible primary date.

[…]

In the October UT/TT poll, Herman Cain led with 27 percent, followed by Rick Perry at 26 percent, Paul at 12 percent, and everyone else in single digits. Santorum had just 1 percent in the October survey.

That’s a heck of a surge. Timing is everything, I guess.

One thing has remained consistent: All four Republicans would beat Obama in a general election in Texas. In head-to-head matchups with the president, Santorum would win 51 percent to 37 percent among likely voters, Gingrich by 49 percent to 38 percent, Romney by 49 percent to 36 percent, and Paul by 44 percent to 35 percent.

“The GOP primary electorate has been and remains very conservative,” Henson said. “The second thing is that Republican Party identification is still the name of the game in Texas. If you’re the guy with ‘R’ next to your name and you’re running against Barack Obama in a general election, you have a pretty significant advantage.”

Couple things to note here. One is that this poll shows three out of four Republicans with larger leads than the previous UT/Trib poll from October and an earlier Texas Lyceum poll did. It stands in stark contrast with a January PPP poll that had Santorum and Romney each leading Obama by 49-42 margins. One possible reason for the difference may be found in the poll details. The total sample is 800 adults. Eighty-nine percent of them proclaim to be “extremely” or “somewhat” interested in “politics and public affairs”, and 91% say they voted in at least one election in “the last two or three years”, while 68% claimed to have voted in all or nearly all of them. Yet the results highlighted in the story are those of 527 “likely” voters, which is less than 66% of the total sample. How did they arrive at that number for the “likely” voter screen? They don’t say. But they do give the head to head results for the full 800 voter sample, and this is what they look like:

1. Newt Gingrich 42% 2. Barack Obama 40% 3. Someone else 13% 4. Don't know 5% 1. Mitt Romney 40% 2. Barack Obama 39% 3. Someone else 16% 4. Don't know 5% 1. Rick Santorum 44% 2. Barack Obama 39% 3. Someone else 11% 4. Don't know 6% 1. Ron Paul 40% 2. Barack Obama 37% 3. Someone else 18% 4. Don't know 5%

Quite a bit different. You can make of that what you want, but it’s remarkable enough that I think it at least merited a mention in the story. I’ve been making a big deal about how polling so far as shown 2012 to be a lot like 2008, and these “likely voter” numbers represent the first result that strays from that narrative. That may well mean that I’ve been wrong all along, but I’ll be honest with you: Having Rick Santorum at the top of the Republican ticket here doesn’t exactly strike terror in my heart, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only Democrat in Texas who feels that way. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you see that the full sample respondents claim to have voted for John McCain over Barack Obama by a 46-39 margin, with 4% for “other” and 11% for “did not vote”, which conveniently enough corresponds to the total that did not claim to be “extremely” or “somewhat” interested in politics. That translates to 54-46 straight up, so it’s not the case that the total sample is particularly skewed. However they applied their “likely voter” screen, it gives a very different picture than everything else we’ve seen so far. BOR has more.

PPP: Perry takes lead on Obama in Texas

Not by that much, however.

Rick Perry has an under water approval rating in Texas and he’s leading Barack Obama by a smaller margin than John McCain won the state by in 2008…but at least he is leading Obama, which is more than he could say the last time we polled the state.

45% of Texas voters approve of the job Perry is doing to 48% who disapprove. Those aren’t good numbers but they do represent improvement from a June PPP poll of the state when Perry was at 43/52. The better numbers are attributable to Republicans really rallying around him. He was at 73/21 with them before but now it’s 78/14. He continues to be very unpopular with independents though (32/61) and even in a state that still has a lot of conservative Democrats his crossover support is virtually nonexistent with just 13% of voters approving of him across party lines. The numbers with independents are particularly troublesome for Perry- if that’s where he is with swing voters where they know him best, can he expect to do well with those folks in key swing states like Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia?

Perry leads Obama in a head to head 51-44. Those aren’t terribly impressive numbers given that John McCain defeated Obama by 12 points in the state, but they do at least represent an improvement for Perry since June when he actually trailed the President 47-45. Perry polls the best of any of the Republicans in Texas- Mitt Romney leads Obama by 6 points at 47-41, Ron Paul’s up by a single point at 43-42, and Obama actually leads Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann by 46-45 and 45-43 margins respectively.

See here for the earlier poll details. As I’ve been saying, there’s no evidence so far in Texas that the electorate looks all that different than it did in 2008. Standard disclaimers apply, but so far there have been no poll results that make you sit up and say “Whoa!”

Couple things to ponder here. One is that in recent Presidential elections, the Republican Presidential nominee has done better than Republican downballot candidates. The reason for this has been a greater dropoff in Republican voting downballot than there has been for Democrats – basically, Democratic downballot candidates get almost as many votes as John Kerry and Barack Obama – in some cases, more votes than them – while Republican candidates lose between five and ten percent of the vote total that George Bush and John McCain received. If that pattern continues, it’s not hard to imagine downballot races being quite close, possibly being won with less than 50% of the vote given the three or four percent that Libertarians generally take. On the other hand, as we saw in 2010, there’s a not-insignificant number of Republicans who dislike Perry enough to cross over against him. That’s not quite the case in this poll, as the crosstabs make clear – Perry does best among Republicans by far, but Obama gets a clear majority of independents. I suspect, however, that a significant number of those “independents” are otherwise fairly reliable Republican voters, so it’s hard to say exactly how different this is from 2010. Point being, I don’t have a good feel yet for whether Obama would generally lead or trail other Dems in a matchup with Perry.

Also, as noted by Stace, Obama does well with Hispanics in Texas, but could do even better:

There are a couple things keeping him from getting completely crused in the state though. One is the Hispanic vote- he’s up 28 points on Perry, 35 on Romney and Paul, 43 on Bachmann, and 45 on Gingrich with those voters. In the case of Perry that margin is equal to what Obama won Hispanics by in Texas in 2008 and with the others it’s a wider spread. This is one state anyway where he is not slipping with Latino voters.

NewsTaco has previously noted that Obama polls quite well among Latinos against all of the GOP hopefuls, Perry included. Perry for his part is hoping to do better among Latinos, assuming he doesn’t get teabagged on “sanctuary cities” and his prior support of the DREAM Act. I’ve looked through the 2010 results to see how Perry did in Latino districts compared to other Republicans, and it’s kind of a mixed bag; the numbers get skewed by the races that feature Latinos, and by differing dropoff rates. Having said that, he did better in South Texas than I would have predicted, less well in the urban areas. Put Marco Rubio on the ticket with him and I’d certainly be concerned.

Anyway. Just another data point, which comes just as the real campaign is getting under way. I’ll keep track of these things to see if any trends develop. Greg has more.

2012 still looks like 2008 so far

The Texas Lyceum put out a series of polls this week – you can see links to them here – but it was the Thursday poll that interested me the most, as it was related to the 2012 elections. Here’s the press release:

The third and final installment of the 2011 Texas Lyceum statewide poll results were released today show both Texas Governor Rick Perry and President Barack Obama above the 50 percent mark on their job approval numbers and both have held fairly steady since October 2010. Governor Perry held at 54% while President Obama moved up slightly from 47% to 51%. While President Obama’s handling of the economy garners 46%, he has picked up 8 points since October 2010 (38%).

I’m as surprised as you are to see Obama’s approval rating so high in Texas, especially since the story line over the past year or more has been what a drag he’s been on Democrats here. I figured that was overstated, but I still expected his approval rating to be less robust. This has gotten picked up by multiple outlets, all with a similar take on it. I don’t want to make too big a deal about this – as the release notes, the poll was taken at a time when Obama was still enjoying a death-of-Bin-Laden bounce, and more than half of of the poll respondents are not classified as “likely voters” – but I do want to point out the last question on the poll, which is the first Presidential general election poll for Texas, which is something I’ve been eagerly waiting for:

If the 2012 election for president were held today, would you vote for Barack Obama or the Republican candidate, or haven’t you thought much about it?

Likely Voters (n=309):

35% Barack Obama.
44% Republican candidate.
2% Another candidate.
17% Haven’t thought much about it.

Now as I said, this sample is a little questionable. It’s small (the margin of error is 5.63%), and I never trust self-screens for likely voters, since people tend to exaggerate about how often they actually go to the polls, but let’s put that aside for a second and look at the numbers. As I noted before, most of the 2008 polls for Texas had Obama at around 41 or 42%, trailing McCain by about ten points. This poll represents a drop in support for both Obama and the now-unnamed GOP nominee of about seven or eight points each, but the difference is the same. In fact, if you extrapolate it out to account for the nonresponses, you’d get a spread of approximately 55 for the GOP to 44 for Obama, which is almost exactly what the 2008 result was. Heck, if you had told me this poll was actually from May of 2007 and had substituted “the Democratic candidate” for “Barack Obama” in the question wording, I would not have blinked. At this very early stage, with this smallish sample, 2012 looks a lot like 2008 so far.

Now maybe the “bin Laden bounce” is inflating things for Obama here. It would be nice to know how the approval ratings compare for the 309 “likely” voters to the 398 not-so-likely voters; maybe one group is a lot more approving of Obama than the other. I will note that the likely voters were almost half again as inclined to vote in the 2012 Republican primary as the Democratic primary (see the executive summary for all the poll questions and results), so I don’t think this group was overfilled with Democrats. It may be that the drop in Obama’s level of support is more telling than the drop in Republican support from the known candidate of 2008 to the unknown one of 2012, but without seeing crosstabs (whose subgroups would have ridiculously high MOEs), it’s hard to say. What I will say is that this result is not evidence against the hypothesis that 2012 will be like 2008. Had the horse race numbers been something like 31-49 or 45-44 you would sit up and say “Whoa!” and try to figure out either why the result was bogus or a harbinger of big changes to come. The actual numbers are reassuringly banal. We may see something different down the line, but for now my opinion remains that 2012 still looks like 2008 around here.

Maybe Perry for President would be good for us

When George W. Bush began being talked about as a Presidential candidate, the story line on him was that he was a well-liked, popular Governor who had bipartisan appeal and support in the state. Outgoing Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock supported him. Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney supported him. Numerous Democratic officeholders in Texas supported him. On the strength of all that, he went on to win Texas by 20 or more points in 2000 and 2004.

Now consider Rick Perry. “Well-liked” and “bipartisan appeal” are not words you would ever associate with him. As for “popular”, it’s true that he has strong support within the Republican Party, which would certainly be an asset in another primary, and it’s true that he won big against a strong, well-funded Democratic opponent this past year. But consider how he did compared to other Republicans on the ballot:

Candidate Votes Pct ============================ Perry 2,737,481 54.97% Porter 2,880,765 59.40% Green 2,903,359 60.02% Keasler 2,906,012 60.48% Lehrmann 2,907,796 59.87% Guzman 2,919,054 60.34% Staples 2,953,775 60.82% Patterson 3,001,736 61.66% Dewhurst 3,049,109 61.78% Abbott 3,151,064 64.05%

Perry received 200,000 to 400,000 fewer votes than other Republicans at the top of the ticket. Those votes went to Democrat Bill White, who got more than 300,000 more votes than the next best Dem on the ticket. He ran six to nine points behind his ballot mates. Compare this to Bush’s gubernatorial re-election in 1998:

Candidate Votes Pct ============================ Bush 2,550,821 68.23% Perry 1,858,837 50.04% Cornyn 2,002,794 54.25% Rylander 1,821,231 49.54% Dewhurst 2,072,604 57.42% Combs 2,021,385 56.29% Garza 2,051,253 56.92% Enoch 2,049,640 58.18% O'Neill 1,891,339 53.52% Abbott 2,104,828 60.10% Hankinson 1,995,811 56.90% Keasler 1,889,069 53.96% Johnson 2,013,959 57.78%

The contrast couldn’t be clearer. A significant number of Democrats voted for Bush in 1998. A significant number of Republicans did not vote for Perry in 2010. And before you ask, no these wayward Republicans did not choose Libertarian Kathie Glass instead. In fact, Glass did worse than every other Lib in a three-way or more race, both in terms of vote total and percentage:

Candidate Votes Pct ============================ Glass 109,211 2.19% Jameson 122,142 2.47% Roland 112,118 2.27% Holdar 148,271 3.04% Donaldson 164,035 3.37% Gary 138,978 2.86% Strange 138,857 2.85% Oxford 144,306 2.98% Armstrong 195,234 4.03% Virasin 139,299 2.89%

So what does this have to do with a Presidential campaign? Well, Perry has no crossover appeal – he has anti-appeal, as a non-trivial number of Republicans won’t vote for him. A six point swing in 2008, about the difference between Perry and Todd Staples from last year, would have been enough to put Barack Obama ahead of John McCain in 2008. To put it another way, having Rick Perry at the top of the ticket next year could do more to make Texas a swing state than anything anyone else has ever done.

Now obviously not all of those Republicans who voted for Bill White instead of Rick Perry last year would vote for Barack Obama. Some would, but many – likely most – would not. But even a three point swing would make things a lot closer; it would have been enough to elect Sam Houston, and would have brought Susan Strawn within a tenth of a percent. Obama still has room to grow among Democrats in Texas, both in terms of better turnout among registered voters, and as we’ll see later holding onto Democratic voters in some parts of the state. How much room do you think Rick Perry has to grow?

Of course there are plenty of other factors to consider here, the economy being first and foremost. If we learned one thing from the 2010 experience, it’s that where you start out and where you end up can be very different, and no one can say what will happen till the campaigning actually begins. As we’ve discussed, Obama consistently polled between eight and 12 points behind McCain in 2008. Wouldn’t you love to see a poll of Texas that matches up Perry and Obama? (Rasmussen has a national poll that shows Obama leading Perry 45-28, but that’s a function of name recognition.) I don’t think Perry does any better in Texas than McCain did against Obama. Maybe I’m wrong and Perry would have a comfortable double-digit lead in a poll that has a reasonable model for a Presidential year. And maybe I’m right and Perry is unable to top 50% and up by only a few. How do you suppose that might change the narrative of this little buzzlet?

Like I said, just a thought. I could very easily be wrong. But either way, I hope that a PPP or someone like them puts a poll in the field, just for grins. Who knows, maybe the result might surprise us.

Obama and Texas 2012

Jonathan Chait notes that recently the Obama re-election team has said it will put money into Texas, and observes that this is part of a bigger strategy.

In the narrow analysis, Texas is a deeply Republican state. Obama lost it by a dozen points in 2008. It can’t possibly help him win in 2012. If he does win the state, which could conceivably happen only in some kind of blowout scenario, he’d easily have enough electoral votes elsewhere to win.

However, there is long-term potential in Texas. The Latino population there is as large a proportion as in California, but it’s heavily demobilized. A concerted campaign to register Latino voters could eventually change the dynamic. The catch is that you have to be willing to spend $20 million or so in order to register them — a huge investment that is hard to justify short term. But Obama might have enough money in 2012 to spare for a long-term investment. And a high-profile Latino Senate candidate like [Gen. Ricardo] Sanchez could lure a lot of previously unregistered Latinos. The only way to make this work is to create an energizing atmosphere for Latinos.

What’s more, Obama does need to mobilize the Latino vote in general, especially in states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida. That’s where the immigration push comes in. Obama failed to pass immigration legislation because a coalition of Republicans and red state Democrats killed it. Because the bills never had a high profile vote, though, it looked a lot like Obama simply didn’t care. That’s why Democrats are making a high profile push now. Obviously, passing something is the best case scenario. But if Republicans want to kill comprehensive reform or even the very modest DREAM Act, the point is to make them do it in a high profile setting that clarifies just who killed it. That kind of clarification is necessary to make the mass mobilization they’re planning in Texas effective. You can’t carry out a mass registration campaign in an atmosphere where the stakes are perceived to be low.

[…]

So the plan is to make the long-term investment in registering Hispanics in Texas, hastening the state’s eventual turn to purple, while maaaybe getting a competitive Senate race (Sanchez is a general running on a centrist message) and helping mobilize Latino voters in true swing states. Add it all together, and three decisions that make little or no sense on their own suddenly make a great deal of sense.

It should be noted that one of the gifts the Republican supermajority has given us this session is a requirement that voter registrars must themselves be registered to vote in Texas, meaning that voter registration drives that depend on out-of-state volunteers are a no go. Be that as it may, the Trib’s Ross Ramsay asked his squadron of political insiders how they thought Obama would do in Texas in 2012 compared to 2008, and the response was overwhelmingly “not as well”. Assuming Team Obama is serious about contesting Texas, or at least competing in it, one of these viewpoints is wrong. How do you resolve the question?

I look at it this way. Obama polled pretty consistently in the 38-42% range in 2008, with John McCain hovering around 50%; the gap between them was usually eight to eleven points, not too far from the actual 12 point difference. I haven’t seen any poll numbers for Texas since the 2010 election. It’s possible they’ll show a noticeable drop in support for him, and if so I’ll have to reconsider. My suspicion is that there’s only so much more that Republicans and Republican-voting independents can hate him, and unlike in an off year there’s no large reserve of semi-habitual voters to show up and skew the turnout models. Based on demography and voting habits, I think he has a lot more room to go up than to go down.

One way to look at it is this. Here’s a chart of John McCain’s percent of the vote in 2008 for each State Senate district versus the turnout percentage:

McCain Pct Vs Turnout

All data taken from here. Overall turnout of registered voters was 59.7%. With the lone exception of SD14 in Travis County, every Senate district that was won by Obama had lower turnout than that. In the 20 Senate districts won by John McCain, only three – SD22, 28, and 31 – were below 59.7, and only the latter two failed to top all Obama-won SDs other than SD14; they fell just short of SD13’s level. Remember, this is turnout of registered voters. Point being, there’s much more room for growth on the Democratic side, for which national money and people-power could have a large effect. And just to drive home the point about how this ties in with the overall strategy Chait identifies, consider this chart:

SSVR Pct vs Turnout

Spanish Surname Voter Registration (SSVR) isn’t an exact measure of Latino voters, but I think the point here is obvious. The seven most heavily Latino districts – SDs 06, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 29 – had by far the worst overall turnout. Only SDs 19 (50.1) and 26 (52.6) cracked the 50% mark. The district with the highest SSVR, SD27 at 78.1%, had the lowest turnout at 43.6%> Remember, this is turnout of registered voters, not population or voting age population or CVAP. Get these turnout levels up near the other districts and see how much you can cut the gap. Is it enough for a win? Highly unlikely. Is it enough to make the Republicans sweat a little and have some good effects downballot? For sure.

All this is predicated on Obama’s approval level remaining about where it has been among Democrats, and him doing as well or better among Latinos in 2012. The latter clearly needs some work. I don’t know how well this strategy – assuming it is a real strategy, and not just the product of a writer’s imagination – will perform, but I’d like to think there is a strategy. We’ll see how it goes from here.

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The immigration wedge issue for the GOP

I have three things to say about this story.

Evangelical ministers in Texas and across the nation are splitting off from the hard right, declaring immigration reform is needed that includes a path to citizenship without first deporting millions of illegal immigrants.

That aligns evangelicals with conservative Republican businessmen who want reform because they want the labor. But it puts the evangelicals at odds with the fiscal and hard right conservatives who take the position that illegal immigrants broke the law and should be deported before being given a chance to re-enter the country.

“It may split the old conservative coalition. It’s not going to split the new one,” said Richard Land, a Houston native who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“If the conservative coalition is going to be a governing coalition, it’s going to have to include an awful lot of Hispanics, and you’re not going to bring an awful lot of Hispanics into your coalition with anti-Hispanic immigration rhetoric,” Land said.

I’ll stipulate that President Obama has been a disappointment on immigration reform. I’ll stipulate that too many Democrats have been lily-livered and just plain wrong on this issue, to the point of using the crazy as cover to tack right on the issue. But look, if even ten percent of the GOP caucus in Congress were willing to vote for a comprehensive immigration reform plan, it would be damn near a slam dunk. Hell, if the GOP Senators would just agree to not filibuster, that would almost surely be enough. They might have even gained yardage with Latinos if they had adopted a non-obstructive strategy. It’s not hard to imagine the Democrats taking months dithering and negotiating with themselves and dealing with hostage takers as they did with health care reform before finally putting forward a weak-kneed, compromise-laden kludge that nobody really liked but they owned 100%. The Republicans didn’t need to lead on this, they just needed to get the hell out of the way. So while I applaud Land and his fellow evangelicals for their words, until such time as they call out the Republicans for their intransigence, especially the so-called “moderates” from Maine and Massachusetts and the heinous flip-floppers McCain and Graham, it’s all just words, and they mean very little. Calling out the racists and the liars would be nice, too.

Bill Hammond, president of the Republican-leaning Texas Association of Business, said the state’s businesses need the foreign workers, especially in hospitality, agriculture and construction.

Immigration, Hammond said, is an issue that’s “dividing us from our traditional friends. We would cross swords on this one.”

Again, this is a matter of all talk and no action. Hammond and his cronies could have found and supported a primary opponent for the likes of Leo Berman and Debbie Riddle, if they really meant to “cross swords”. Put some of your considerable financial resources where your yap is, Bill, and then I’ll give you some credibility on this matter.

And speaking of crazy Leo:

Berman said he believes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is a path to creating Democratic voters.

“There’s 25 million in the United States – you can’t listen to the 8 million to 12 million numbers that come out of Washington every day – you’re going to create an instant 25 million Democrats,” Berman said.

“I don’t think these evangelical leaders understand that.”

Actually, I thought Richard Land addressed that point pretty clearly, but whatever. Leo’s not about the facts anyway, as you can see. But I agree he’s right that most undocumented immigrants would vote Democratic if they were allowed to vote. Berman has himself and others like him to blame for that, as they have done all they can to make the GOP as warm and welcoming of immigrants in general and Latinos in particular as they’ve been of blacks, gays, and unmarried women. Funny how these things work, isn’t it?

You tell ’em, Chuck

Charles Barkley, speaking to ESPN’s Dan Patrick, talks sense about the Arizona “Show me your papers” law:

DP: You’re a resident of Arizona, I’m curious if you think baseball should get involved with the immigration law. Do you like that they’re standing up for their players to say we’re concerned about this law?

CB: I think we all need to. As a black person, I’m always against any form of discrimination or racial profiling. I really respect Adrian Gonzalez for coming out and saying something. I didn’t realize that in the major leagues there’s 30 percent Hispanic players, and in the minor leagues it’s like 50. Those are some daunting numbers. I think that we need to do two things. Living in Arizona, I’m disappointed that we came up with the law. But we need to do two things. We need to find a way to get these immigrants their citizenship, that’s the first thing, is to find a way to help them get citizenship. I’m very disappointed in John McCain. He used to be somebody I really admired and respected. The second thing, to me, would be very simple. Anybody who hires immigrants, you just fine them. They’re not working for other immigrants. Fine and penalize the people they’re working for, because most of those immigrants here are busting their hump, doing a great job, and to go after them every couple years because you want to raise hell doing something to get re-elected, that’s disrespectful and disgusting.

I don’t think I need to add anything to that. Way to go, Chuckster. Link via Think Progress.

Population and voting trends: 2004 and 2008 Presidential election

Taking a look at the voting trends in the fastest growing counties made me want to know more about this, so I broke out the spreadsheets and took a look. I’ll present the results in a three-part series, starting today with a comparison of the 2004 and 2008 Presidential election. Basically, I took the county by county canvass report for the two elections from the Secretary of State webpage, loaded them into a spreadsheet, and went to town on it. Here’s what I learned:

– At a macro level, there were 7,359,621 votes cast in the 2004 Presidential election in Texas, and 8,007,961 votes cast in 2008, for an increase of 648,340. Note that in all cases all I’m considering is the sum of the Republican and Democratic votes – third parties and write-ins are not counted. Bush/Cheney got 4,526,917 votes, while McCain/Palin got 4,479,328, for a decline of 47,589. Kerry/Edwards received 2,832,704 votes and Obama/Biden received 3,528,633, for an increase of 695,929.

– For each county, I compared the total number of votes cast for each party, and the difference between the Democratic and Republican totals. The spreadsheet is sorted by the difference in the Democratic performance from 2004 to 2008, so a negative number means that the Republicans did better in terms of vote total than Democrats did, while a positive number means that Democrats gained ground.

There were a total of 107 counties in which Democrats did worse in 2008 than in 2004. A total of 1,394,368 votes were cast in those counties. They broke down as follows:

– 60 counties in which Republicans gained votes from 2004 to 2008 and Democrats lost them, for a net of 633,754 total 2008 votes.

– 24 counties in which both parties gained votes but the GOP gained more, for 583,941 votes total.

– 21 counties in which both parties lost votes but Dems lost more, for 174,956 votes total.

– Comanche County, which had the same GOP total but 97 fewer Democratic votes. It was 3813 to 1431 in 2004, and 3813 to 1334 in 2008.

– And finally, Loving County, which had the same Dem total, but 2 more GOP votes. It was 65 to 12 in 2004, and 67 to 12 in 2008.

Some highlights from each group, starting with the first. Here are the six counties in which the Republican gains plus the Democratic losses were the greatest:

County Bush McCain Gain Kerry Obama Loss Dem Net =============================================================== Orange 20,292 21,509 1,217 11,476 7,646 -3,830 -5,047 Bowie 21,791 24,162 2,371 11,880 10,815 -1,065 -3,436 Hardin 15,030 16,603 1,573 5,608 3,939 -1,669 -3,242 Galveston 61,290 62,258 968 43,919 41,805 -2,114 -3,082 Cass 7,383 8,279 896 4,630 3,490 -1,140 -2,036 Jasper 8,347 9,022 675 4,471 3,658 -813 -1,488

These are not fast-growing counties. In fact, three of them – Orange, Cass, and Jasper – lost population this decade, according to the Census population estimates. Galveston County has actually grown by more than ten percent for the decade, with no reported drop in population in 2008 or 2009. Much of that growth is at the north end, in Republican territory like Friendswood and League City. And of course, we know what was going on, especially in the more Democratic-friendly south end of the county, in late 2008.

Next, the counties in which everyone lost ground:

County Bush McCain Loss Kerry Obama Loss Dem Net =============================================================== Polk 13,778 13,771 -47 6,964 6,230 -734 -687 Jefferson 44,423 42,905 -1,518 47,066 44,888 -2,178 -660 Milam 5,291 5,217 -74 3,445 3,044 -401 -327 Eastland 5,249 5,165 -84 1,582 1,271 -311 -227

You get into some mighty small counties after that. Jefferson County’s population has declined by about three percent over the decade, though it’s ticked up a bit since a big drop from 2005 to 2006. Milam and Eastland have basically stayed the same, but Polk County actually grew by more than ten percent. I have no idea why its turnout dropped as much as it did given that.

Finally, some of the growers:

County Bush McCain Gain Kerry Obama Gain Dem Net ================================================================== Montgomery 104,654 119,884 15,230 28,628 36,703 8,075 -7,155 Parker 31,795 36,974 5,179 8,966 10,502 1,536 -3,643 Johnson 34,818 36,685 1,867 12,325 12,912 587 -1,280 Chambers 8,618 9,988 1,370 2,953 3,188 235 -1,135 Erath 9,506 10,768 1,262 2,710 3,128 418 -844 Hood 16,280 17,299 1,019 4,865 5,087 222 -797 Angelina 18,932 19,569 637 9,302 9,379 77 -560 Comal 31,574 35,233 3,659 9,153 12,384 3,231 -428 Kaufman 21,304 23,735 2,431 8,947 11,161 2,214 -217

Montgomery and Kaufman, you know about. Comal probably just missed being on that fastest-growing list, as its population grew by about 50% between 2000 and 2009. Angelina and Erath grew modestly, less than ten percent each; Chambers grew by a bit less than 20%, mostly in the last two or three years; the others all grew by 25% or more.

How about the flip side? There were 23 counties in which both parties lost ground, but the Republicans lost more, so the Democrats had a net gain. Most of these were tiny, with the five largest as follows:

County Bush McCain Loss Kerry Obama Loss Dem Net =============================================================== Gray 7,260 6,924 -336 1,289 1,153 -136 200 Hutchinson 7,480 7,029 -451 2,663 2,545 -118 333 Bee 5,428 4,471 -957 4,045 3,645 -400 557 Jim Wells 5,817 4,841 -976 6,824 6,706 -118 858 Atascosa 7,635 5,462 -2,173 4,421 4,415 -6 2,167

Other than Atascosa, which actually grew by about 15% during the decade but apparently replaced a bunch of Republicans with even more non-voters, there not really much to be said about this group. There were 34 counties in which both parties received more votes, but the Democrats increased by more than the GOP. Those 34 counties accounted for 1,615,855 votes, or more than all 107 in which the Dems lost ground. Some highlights:

County Bush McCain Gain Kerry Obama Gain Dem Net ================================================================== Collin 174,435 184,897 10,462 68,935 109,047 40,112 29,650 Denton 140,891 149,935 9,044 59,346 91,160 31,814 22,770 Fort Bend 93,625 103,206 9,581 68,722 98,368 29,646 20,065 Williamson 83,284 88,323 5,039 43,117 67,691 24,574 19,535 Hays 27,021 29,638 2,617 20,110 28,431 8,321 5,704 Brazoria 63,662 67,515 3,853 28,904 36,480 7,576 3,723 Guadalupe 28,208 30,869 2,661 10,290 16,156 5,866 3,205 Smith 53,392 55,187 1,795 19,970 23,726 3,756 1,961 Bastrop 13,290 13,817 527 9,794 11,687 1,893 1,366 Kerr 16,538 16,752 214 4,557 5,570 1,013 799

There’s the rest of the fastest growers, plus a few others that are no slouches – Guadalupe, which abuts Comal, grew by 30%; Brazoria and Bastrop by 25%, Smith by more than 15%, and Kerr by more than 10%. Together, these ten counties by themselves shaved 108,878 votes off the Democrats’ deficit.

You may have noticed that some of the big counties have been absent in this discussion. Well, here the are now:

County Bush McCain Loss Kerry Obama Gain Dem Net =================================================================== Harris 584,723 571,883 -12,840 475,865 590,982 115,117 127,957 Dallas 346,246 310,000 -36,246 336,641 422,989 86,348 122,594 Bexar 260,698 246,275 -14,423 210,976 275,527 64,551 78,974 Tarrant 349,462 348,420 -1,042 207,286 274,880 67,594 68,636 Travis 147,885 139,981 -10,904 197,235 254,017 56,782 67,686 Hidalgo 50,931 39,668 -11,263 62,369 90,261 27,892 39,155 El Paso 73,261 61,783 -11,478 95,142 122,021 26,879 38,357 Cameron 34,801 26,671 -8,130 33,998 48,480 14,482 22,612 Bell 52,135 49,242 -2,893 27,165 40,413 13,248 16,141 Webb 17,753 13,119 -4,634 23,654 33,452 9,798 14,432 Lubbock 70,135 66,304 -3,831 22,472 30,486 8,014 11,845 Nueces 59,359 52,391 -6,968 44,439 47,912 3,473 10,441

Sometimes I think people don’t fully appreciate what happened in Harris County in 2008. Because the Democrats didn’t quite win all of the countywide races, some people consider the effort that year to have failed. All I can say is that I look at the numbers, I see the magnitude of the swing in four years, and I’m just amazed. Dallas is technically more amazing, since their swing was nearly the same size but was done with far fewer voters, but since they had their blue breakthrough in 2006, it too gets a bit lost in the shuffle. Bexar and Cameron, along with Harris and Dallas, flipped from red to blue, while Tarrant, Bell, and Nueces became officially purple. The only deep red county up there is Lubbock, and even it moved in the right direction.

I bring all of this up for two reasons. One is because even though I’ve covered some of this ground before, I feel like it needs to be repeated every now and again, as a reminder. Texas is a very different place than it was as recently as six years ago. That hasn’t shown up in the statewide elections yet, but the shift from one cycle to the next is unmistakable. And two, as a delayed response to Paul Burka, who recently wrote that “National Democrats have done a good job of spinning the myth that Democrats are resurgent in Texas. In fact, the D’s success has been limited to one area, the Texas House of Representatives.” I pointed out in the comments that this completely overlooked the gains that Democrats had made in county elections in places like Dallas and Harris, but it’s more than that. Democrats were in a huge hole after 2004, and it’s hard to overstate how far they came in just four years. If 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, Texas will be a tossup state. Obviously, a lot has to happen between now and then, but the point is that a lot has already happened. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

Next up, a look at judicial races from 2004 to 2008, and a similar comparison for 2002 to 2006.

Where the votes are going

Matt Stiles looks at Census data and notes a political point.

Seven Texas counties — Rockwall, Williamson, Collin, Hays, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Denton — are listed among the nation’s 30 fastest-growing areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released [Tuesday].

They are also Republican-voting counties, according to results in the 2008 general election. Sen. John McCain won these counties by a 20-point margin, well over 240,000 votes.

It’s actually a hair shy of 260,000 votes – Stiles had missed Rockwall County in his initial post, and though he added it in for an update, he did not re-do the math. There’s a bit more to this than that, however. Let’s have a look at how these counties voted in 2004:

County Name Party Votes Total Pct ==================================================== Collin Bush R 174,435 243,370 71.67 Collin Kerry D 68,935 243,370 28.33 Denton Bush R 140,891 200,237 70.36 Denton Kerry D 59,346 200,237 29.64 Fort Bend Bush R 93,625 162,347 57.67 Fort Bend Kerry D 68,722 162,347 42.33 Hays Bush R 27,021 47,131 57.33 Hays Kerry D 20,110 47,131 42.67 Montgomery Bush R 104,654 133,282 78.29 Montgomery Kerry D 28,628 133,282 21.71 Rockwall Bush R 20,120 25,440 79.09 Rockwall Kerry D 5,320 25,440 20.91 Williamson Bush R 83,284 126,401 65.89 Williamson Kerry D 43,117 126,401 34.11 Total Bush R 644,030 938,208 68.64 Total Kerry D 294,178 938,208 31.36 Total McCain R 699,183 1,139,175 61.38 Total Obama D 439,892 1,139,175 38.62

Putting it another way, those counties had about 200,000 more voters in 2008 than in 2004. 145,000 of those new voters – 72.5% – voted Democratic, 55,000 voted Republican. That’s change I can believe in, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Obama did do about five and a half points better overall in Texas than John Kerry did, going from 38.22% to 43.68% of the absolute vote (38.49% to 44.06% in the two-party matchup). It would be strange indeed if he didn’t markedly improve on 2004 in these counties. Notice, however, that he improved by a point and a half more than he did in the state as a whole. That’s a good trend, too.

To which you may say, “Oh sure, compare a historic election for which Democrats were super-excited to one where a highly popular Texas Republican President was on the ballot. That’s fair.” Well, how about we compare the election of 2002 to the election of 2006? Since there are no Presidential candidates, I’m going to look at a couple of Supreme Court races, because 1) they’re usually more about party identification than anything else, and 2) we have a couple of races with similar R/D performances: Margaret Mirabal versus Steven Smith in 2002, and Bill Moody versus Don Willett in 2006. Here are the numbers:

County Name Party Votes Total Pct ===================================================== Collin Smith R 88,762 122,655 72.37 Collin Mirabal D 33,893 122,655 27.63 Denton Smith R 69,899 100,260 69.72 Denton Mirabal D 30,361 100,260 30.28 Fort Bend Smith R 47,008 84,153 55.86 Fort Bend Mirabal D 37,145 84,153 44.14 Hays Smith R 14,238 26,129 54.49 Hays Mirabal D 11,891 26,129 45.51 Montgomery Smith R 53,977 71,428 75.57 Montgomery Mirabal D 17,451 71,428 24.43 Rockwall Smith R 10,148 13,304 76.28 Rockwall Mirabal D 3,156 13,304 23.72 Williamson Smith R 46,480 71,981 64.57 Williamson Mirabal D 25,501 71,981 35.43 County Name Party Votes Total Pct ===================================================== Collin Willet R 82,834 125,348 66.08 Collin Moody D 42,514 125,348 33.92 Denton Willet R 63,475 99,380 63.87 Denton Moody D 35,905 99,380 36.13 Fort Bend Willet R 49,953 92,843 53.80 Fort Bend Moody D 42,890 92,843 46.20 Hays Willet R 13,644 27,775 49.12 Hays Moody D 14,131 27,775 50.88 Montgomery Willet R 54,018 74,650 72.36 Montgomery Moody D 20,632 74,650 27.64 Rockwall Willet R 10,331 14,233 72.58 Rockwall Moody D 3,902 14,233 27.42 Williamson Willet R 43,193 75,659 57.09 Williamson Moody D 31,466 75,659 42.91 2002 Total R 330,512 489,910 67.46 2002 Total D 159,398 489,910 32.54 2006 Total R 317,448 508,888 62.38 2006 Total D 191,440 508,888 37.62

Once again, improvement by the Democrats across the board. Dems picked up 32,000 voters, while the Rs lost 13,000. It’s not an exact apples to apples comparison because there was a Libertarian candidate in 2006, but even if you assign all of his votes (23,730 in these seven counties) to Willett, the Dems still have a 32,000 to 10,000 advantage in voters gained. All without any of that hopey-changey stuff.

If you want to see the effect in pictures, I’ve got you covered there as well:

Democratic vote share - click to enlarge

Democratic vote share - click to enlarge

GOP vote share - click to enlarge

GOP vote share - click to enlarge

The GOP vote share ticked up a bit from 2006 to 2008 in Montgomery, and to a lesser extent in Hays, but overall the trends are pretty clear. It’s especially clear when you simply compare 2002 to 2006, and 2004 to 2008.

Does any of this mean anything for 2010? Well, elections are all about the candidates, and every election is different, and blah blah blah. What I’ll say is simply that these counties start out with a higher floor for Democrats than they had eight years ago – I’ll be surprised if Bill White doesn’t carry Fort Bend and Hays, and he has a decent shot at Williamson, too – and I expect that this year there will be a lot more organizing done in them as well; in some cases, that may be the first time there’s been a real, funded, organizing effort. All things being equal, that should certainly have a positive effect. The whole point of this exercise was to show that while these counties are still challenging territory for Democrats, they’re a lot friendlier overall than they once were, and the prospect of them being the fastest growing areas in the state is not a daunting one for the Ds.

From the “Will they never learn?” files

Back when I was having my Trib-based conversation with David Benzion, he mentioned a web ad that was released by the Texas GOP to attack Bill White in anticipation of his jump to the Governor’s race. That ad featured a song by The Platters. Apparently, the state GOP hasn’t gotten the message that using an artist’s copyrighted song for unauthorized political purposes isn’t such a good idea. But they’re about to find out.

Now, attorneys for the Platters founding member Herb Reed are considering their options. “Herb would never agree to let his music be used in a political way,” said Reed’s manager, Fred Balboni.

The Internet ad, titled “Bill White: Too Liberal for Texas,” went live on the Republican Party of Texas’ YouTube account on Dec. 2. When asked whether his party had received the required permission from the copyright holders of the performance and the original composition, RPT Communications Director Bryan Preston said no licenses were required because the ad was “covered under fair use and political parody.” Legal precedent, however, suggests he’s wrong, especially in light of a recent high-profile defeat for Republicans.

In 2008, Jackson Browne sued Sen. John McCain, the Republican National Committee, and the Ohio Republican Party for copyright violation and falsely implied endorsement after they used his 1977 track “Running on Empty” without his permission in an anti-Obama attack ad. The U.S. District Court in California threw out McCain’s motion to dismiss using a public interest defense, forcing the Republicans to settle out of court in July 2009. As part of the agreement, they pledged “in future election campaigns to respect and uphold the rights of artists and to obtain permissions and/or licenses for copyrighted works where appropriate.” Browne’s attorney Larry Iser said, “The law is very clear that the parody must be a parody of the song itself.” Since the latest ad is attacking White and not the Platters, he called the Texas GOP’s claim that the ad is protected free speech “nonsense.”

This really isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. There are plenty of examples of campaigns, mostly Republican ones, getting in trouble for doing this. I guess some people need to learn the hard way.

The Texas Trib and its polls

I’ve been so immersed in the Houston elections that I forgot to give a warm welcome to the Texas Tribune, which made its debut on Tuesday. I really like the look of the site, I like their lineup of writers, and I like what they’re aiming to do. Once their RSS feeds become available, I’ll be really happy. So welcome aboard, y’all. I look forward to seeing what you can do.

One thing in particular I’m interested in is their polling center, which assimilated the Texas Politics Project. Their first effort has drawn some criticism, much of which boils down to what Paul Burka says:

I will tell you up front that I do not know enough about statistics to know whether [their methodology] is reliable or not. I do know enough to know that this methodology is not truly random, because everybody who signed up has manifested enough interest in politics to want to be surveyed.

[…]

Internet polling is probably the future of polling, and the UT/Tribune poll is our best hope for a regular flow of campaign information, so I’m going to have to get used to it. But my confidence level is not very high.

The good news is that the more of this they do, the more of a track record they’ll build by which we can judge them. Remember that SurveyUSA, whose absence in Texas Burka rightly laments, was once viewed skeptically because it used an automated interactive script to get people to push buttons on their phone in response to questions instead of talking to a live person. If the TxP polls prove to be as accurate as SUSA has been, we’ll look back at this some day and wonder what we were afraid of.

But that’s a few years, or at least a few dozen polls, away. What we have to go on now is their October 2008 polls of the Presidential and Senate races. The results they got – McCain 51, Obama 40, Barr 1; and Cornyn 45, Noriega 36, Schick 5 – aren’t bad; they did come pretty close to the actual margin of victory in each race. Here’s what I wrote at the time.

I’ll note that whatever else one may think, the results are in line with most other recent polls, the last Rasmussen Senate poll being an exception. The (too) high number of undecideds skews things a bit – in particular, for the one bit of sample breakdown that we do get, the poll claims 16% of black respondents and 17% of Hispanics are undecided in the Senate race. I can just about guarantee you that a large majority of each will ultimately cast their ballots for Rick Noriega. On the flip side, I think the five percent showing for Libertarian Yvonne Schick is too high – I believe she’ll ultimately get two to three percent, with the rest mostly going back to Cornyn.

In case you’re curious, Yvonne Schick ultimately got 2.34% of the vote. Sometimes these predictions are easy to make.The point is that after they’ve polled the gubernatorial primaries in February, the general election races in October, and the (special?) Senate election whenever, we’ll have a much better idea if we’re dealing with reliable data or for-entertainment-purposes-only stuff. My advice is to poll as many races as you can, close to the election whenever possible, and let the chips fall where they may.

On the matter of turnout

This Star-Telegram story about turnout in the 2008 election versus turnout in the 2004 election has got some people talking.

The presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain sent more Texans to the polls last year, but the state still had one of the lowest turnouts in the country, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

After factoring in population growth, turnout in Texas dropped 1 percentage point from 2004.

About 8.4 million voters cast ballots in the state in the November election, roughly half a million more than in 2004.

But that growth didn’t keep pace with the rise in the state’s population, so turnout actually dropped, from 57 percent in 2004 to 56 percent in 2008. That puts Texas 45th among the states in 2008; it was 47th in 2004.

Turnout rose among black voters in Texas from 2004 to 2008, but dropped among Hispanics and Asians. An additional 263,000 blacks voted in 2008, increasing turnout from 58 to 65 percent. Hispanic turnout decreased from 42 to 38 percent, despite an additional 164,000 voters. Turnout among Asians fell to 34 percent from 43 percent, with 34,000 fewer voting.

In Texas, while 71,000 more voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots in 2008, the turnout for that age group dropped from 39 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2008. Voters ages 65 to 74 saw the largest gain, from 69 percent in 2004 to 74 percent in 2008.

BOR expresses disappointment about the youth-voting numbers. EoW has some extra links. Marc Campos goes on one of his rants about the lack of a Latino voter outreach effort. My reaction is one of puzzlement. I have no idea where some of these numbers are coming from. Let’s take a look at some figures from the Secretary of State page on voter registration and turnout, and you’ll see what I mean.

2008 – November (Presidential)
Registered Voters
13,575,062
Voting Age Population (VAP)
17,735,442
Percentage of VAP Registered
76.54
Turnout
8,077,795
Percent of Turnout to Registered
59.50
Percent of Turnout to VAP
45.55
2004 – November (Presidential)
Registered Voters
13,098,329
Voting Age Population (VAP)
16,071,153
Percentage of VAP Registered
81.50
Turnout
7,410,749
Percent of Turnout to Registered
56.57
Percent of Turnout to VAP
46.11

So first off, I have no idea where the story gets the 8.4 million voters number, nor where it gets the 56% figure, as that implies a population of 15 million, and I don’t see anything to connect it to that. The Austin Business Journal refers to “56% of adults”, but I don’t see how “adults” differs from “voting age population”. Similarly, for 2004, the implied numbers are 7.9 million voters out of 13.9 million. At least I can see where that latter figure comes from, but not the former. Maybe we’re counting undervotes, or provisional ballots that were later rejected? I couldn’t say.

But be that as it may, it seems to me the story here isn’t one of turnout, which appears to me at least to have gone up as a percentage of voting age population (VAP), but one of voter registration, which clearly lagged the growth in population. It’s possible that some of that is due to more rapid growth among adults in non-citizens and ineligible voters. We also know, however, that in Harris County at least, voter registration figures were down from 2004 thanks to former Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt and his efforts to scrub the voter rolls as well as his frequent rejections of new voter registrations. Harris was unlike other big counties in this regard, so that’s just a part of it as well, but the point I’m making is that when the percentage of VAP being registered goes from 81.5 to 76.5 in four years’ time, that’s what we need to be focusing on. Democrats in Colorado have closed the registration gap with Republicans by aggressively pursuing previously unregistered voters. I’m not going to claim we can do what Colorado Dems have done because I know we can’t, but there certainly is some ground to be gained there. At the very least, I want to have a better understanding of why the percentage of registered voters was down so much. That’s the message I get from this.

UPDATE: The Contrarian has more.

Challenging Chet

Via Eye on Williamson, I see the national GOP is once again looking to try to beat Rep. Chet Edwards in CD17.

There’s little question Republicans are looking to target Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), who could face yet another tough re-election in his solidly conservative Waco-based seat. The question is who his opponent will be.

Both experienced and inexperienced Republicans are preparing their Federal Election Commission forms in Texas’ 17th district, encouraged by a strong showing by poorly funded 2008 nominee Rob Curnock.

Curnock held Edwards to 53 percent of the vote, despite receiving almost no support from the national party. Curnock, a small-business owner from Waco, plans to run again and hopes this time he’ll receive more support from national and local party leaders.

I think the key here is to compare Edwards’ 2004 performance with his 2008 performance, since I believe the non-Presidential year will be more favorable to him as it was in 2006. Here’s a Google spreadsheet that compares Edwards’ performance in each of CD17’s counties to John Kerry in 2004 and to Barack Obama in 2008. What I did in each was compare Edwards’ performance to that of the Democratic presidential candidate, and then compared the ratio from 2004 to that of 2008.

I think the story of these two elections is in the three biggest counties: Brazos, Johnson, and McClennan. In 2004, Edwards barely eked out a plurality in Brazos, got clobbered in Johnson, and won big in McClennan. In 2008, Edwards won a solid majority in Brazos, improved noticeably in Johnson, and won a smaller majority in McClennan.

His improvement in Brazos, I believe, can be largely attributed to an overall improvement in Democratic performance there. John McCain got almost exactly as many votes as George Bush did, while Barack Obama added over 4000 votes to John Kerry’s tally; meanwhile, Curnock did almost as well as Arlene Wohlgemuth while Edwards increased his total by 5000 votes. While there were probably a few Wohlgemuth voters who switched to Edwards in 2008, for the most part there were just a lot more people voting Democratic.

By contrast, Edwards’ improvement in Johnson is all him. McCain gained 1800 votes over Bush, and Obama added 600 to Kerry’s total, leaving their percentage almost identical to 2004, while Curnock lost 1500 votes and Edwards added 4200. Clearly, Curnock was a weaker candidate than Wohlgemuth, who was also from Johnson County and surely benefited from being a hometown girl, but Edwards did more than just take advantage of that difference.

Finally, McClennan presents an interesting case. Edwards won it by 23,000 votes in 2004, and was in net negative territory everywhere else. In 2008, he would have won even if all of McClennan’s votes were thrown out, but he only carried McClennan by 16,000 votes, and that was with Obama getting 37% to Kerry’s 33%. Here, Curnock’s residency in Waco likely helped him. Similarly, a local issue having to do with water rights that Edwards tied around Wohlgemuth’s neck back in 2004 was not on the table this time around. Unlike Johnson County, not being Arlene Wohlgemuth, especially not being Arlene Wohlgemuth in 2004, worked to the GOP’s advantage.

Based on all this, I’d venture that Edwards will likely do fine in 2010, barring any national headwinds against the Dems. If the NRCC dream candidate of State Sen. Steve Ogden jumps in, that would make for a hell of a race, but Ogden is up for re-election himself in 2010, so he’d have to give up his Senate seat and his powerful spot as chair of the Finance Committee to do that. I don’t know that a chance to maybe be in the House minority is worth that, but we’ll see.

Dallas Dems look to 2010

Never too early to be thinking about these things.

“I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say we can do 57 percent [countywide] in 2010,” said Darlene Ewing, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

Because of that comfort level, Ewing said, the county party is targeting Dallas County commissioner Precinct 4, held by Republican Ken Mayfield.

Mayfield won in narrow victory in 2006, as his Republican-leaning area in western Dallas County continued to see demographic shifts that resulted in more Hispanic voters.

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia, a Democrat, is expected to challenge Mayfield next year.

Ewing said Democrats are also eying state House District 105, where last year Republican Linda Harper Brown of Irving held on by 19 votes to beat little-known Democrat Bob Romano.

HD105 is a given; it really should have been won in 2008, but that’s water under the bridge at this point. It gets harder after that – HDs 108, 112, 113, and 114 are all within numerical reach, though they all present challenges. If they can find and fund quality candidates, anything is possible. Some defense will be in order as well, especially in HD 101, where the Obama wave was helpful to Robert Miklos’ victory.

Beyond that, I sure hope their sights are set a little higher than this. Winning a County Commissioner’s seat is big, but there’s another prize out there that’s just begging for a claim to be put in. I’m speaking about CD32, where Pete Sessions will be operating as the chair of the NRCC in a district that’s trending strongly Democratic – as the Swing State Project documented, where George W. Bush won 64% in CD32 in 2000, and 60% in 2004, John McCain could muster only 53% last year. With the DCCC having already targeted Sessions on the airwaves, and with a lack of any countywide races to take over, why not take aim here? The Dems had a candidate in 2006 who had money but no visible campaign that I could discern, and a candidate in 2008 who ran an active campaign but had little money. Surely in 2010 they could find someone to put both halves of the formula together. Thanks to BOR for the link.