Saturday, October 9, 2010

Micro vs Macro (Which 94?)

In recent weeks, Liberals ( and their willing accomplices in the media) are finally admitting that 2010 is an anti-Liberal Macro ( wave ) election.
To understand a wave election, consider two field goal kickers who kick the football equally well. In a normal game, 50 yards is about the top of each kickers range. Now, enter a strong wind, north to south. The kicker on the team heading north will see his range drop dramatically- perhaps down to 40 yards. On the other hand, with the wind at his back, the other kicker might be able to hit from 60 yards out. This 20 yard advantage is attributable, not to either kicker, but to the wind. In fact, it was just this fact that caused the NFL to institute a rule that flips the direction a team goes in after each quarter.

The wind in this year's mid-term elections can be measured in a number of ways. The Partisan Voter Index (PVI) is one, Job approval numbers is another. A third is the enthusiasm gap, another is the Generic Congressional Ballot. Finally, and ultimately,that wind is registered by actual turnout.
When an election is decided by local issues and local candidates, that election is considered to be a micro election. Most elections are microelections. However, when local candidates are swept away in races they would normally have won, the election is a wave or Macro election.

Now, I am not a fortune teller or a prophet and, as such, I cannot tell you exactly what will occur on Nov 2nd. What I can tell you is that those who are predicting a historic rout of the Democrats by the Republicans, are doing so because of the results of the metrics I have listed above. There are only two ways to interpret the data;

1) The data is correct and the Democrats are going to suffer losses like we have never seen.
2) The data is not correct.

Anyone telling you that the data does not point to huge Democratic losses is delusional.

Data can be wrong and Dems could surprise us on election day. If that happens, however, I want to be clear. The blame would fall on those who produced the data, not those who interpreted it. In this article, I will tell you what to expect, IF the information it is based on is correct. This is what the numbers say. If the NUMBERS wind up being in error, don't blame me, I am just the messenger.

To put it in simple terms, the more Macro this election is, the more it benefits Republicans (the party trying to pick up seats). The more Micro this election is, the more it benefits Democrats (the party trying to defend seats). All the data suggests a very, very, very Macro election. Historic, even.

The Partisan Voter Index (PVI)

Democrat Alexander Scott is running against Republican Scott Alexander in a hypothetical race. They are identical in every way. It is a totally ordinary year with no overarching national issues. Democrat Scott wins the election by 3 points. This district has a PVI of D+3.

Of course, the Republican could overcome the PVI with a strong campaign or by other factors. On the other hand, the Dem could run a strong campaign and win by 6 points. However, if you examined 100 races that averaged a PVI of D+3, in a typical year, you would expect to find that the average margin of victory would be a 3 point win for the democrats. This is a pretty reliable indicator, that is why people like Charlie Cook use it.

Given this fact, examining current polling of House and Senate races, you would ordinarily expect to see Democrat leads as you cross over from R+1 to 0 to D+1. Yet, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics has pointed out in the seven senate races that are between PVI 0 to D+6, Republicans are leading in 6 of the 7 races. Further, the GOP is competitive in 3 of the 4 races (leading in 1) that are D+7 or D+8. Only in states D+9 or higher, does the Democrat appear safe. In the house, Trende relies on polling of more than 50 competitive races and finds the same result- Democrats being safe in only races of D+9 or higher. In fact, in races in districts that are 0 to D+5, the Democrat pulls an average just 44% of the vote!

What this means.

Look at the PVI as the height of a wall in feet. If the PVI is D+5, it takes a 5 foot wave to breach the wall. If Sean Trende is correct, any Democrat with a wall less than 9 feet high is in flood danger.

If these numbers hold sway, the Democrats will lose Senate seats in North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Illinois, Nevada, Washington and Colorado. Indeed, Republicans currently lead in all 10 of those states.

In the House, the picture is worse. How many current Democratic seats have a wall of less than 9 feet? Answer: 121. A gain of 1/3 of those seats would give the GOP the majority. Half would give us a gain 60 seats. If Trende's numbers are accurate, the 70 or 80 seat gains or more, some have talked about are not flighty in the least.

Job Approval numbers. In an ordinary election year, the job approval number of an incumbent is a good indicator of how he will do on election day. For example, in the 1992 election, George Bush 41 had a job approval number of 38% and that is just what he got on election day. In 2004, George Bush 43 had an approval number of 52% and again, that is exactly what he received on election day.

When a candidate (or someone running to succeed him) under-performs his/her own approval ratings, it is because the election was decided by other factors. Although most politicians, of both parties, are very unpopular, there is one very notable exception. West Virginia's Joe Manchin is one of the most popular Governors in America with a 69% Job approval number. Yet, in his Senate race against John Raese, he is losing by 5 points and polling just 43% That means that Manchin is under performing his own job approval by a staggering 26 points. Is this the only example? No. Independent Charlie Crist has a 51% approval rating as Florida's Governor yet he is polling only 25% in the latest poll. The difference is, again, 26 percentage points. In Wyoming, Democrat Dave Freudenthal is not running for reelection but, with a 73% approval rating, you would think the Democrat's would be well positioned for a retention, right? You'd be wrong. The Republican running for this race currently has a lead of better than 35 points. Is this a fluke? No, it isn't. In Tennessee, the Democratic Governor also has a 73% Job approval rating but the Democrat running to succeed him (the son of a former Governor) is losing by 25 points. These 5 Governors are only a few examples of many races in which the popularity of an individual Democrat cannot compete with the unpopularity of the party. This is clear evidence of a wave.

The Enthusiasm gap.
The enthusiasm gap has been the story of 2010. Who are the people who probably won't vote, who might vote and who are the broken glass voters.
Broken glass voters are those who-if necessary- would crawl on their hands and knees over a mile of broken glass to get to the polling place. There is no denying it, the most enthused voter this year is likely to be male, white, 30+, married, Christian and Conservative. The most dispirited voter is young, female, black/hispanic/other, 29 or less, atheist and liberal. In other words, the segment of electorate that is most excited about voting in 2010 is the one that was most demoralized in 2008 and the one that was most excited in 2008 is the most demoralized in 2010.

How excited? How Demoralized?

In polling among registered voters, Republicans have routinely held 3-4 point leads this year. However, when the polls were narrowed to the voters who said they were enthusiastic or very enthusiastic about voting, the lead has stretched to as much as 16 points. The point is simple. An excited voter is far more likely to show up than a dispirited voter.

How much difference could this make?

Let's discuss our hypothetical PVI district from above where the Dem wins by 3%. In this scenario, let's assume that the ideological breakdown in the district is as follows;

Liberal: 35
Moderate: 33
Conservative: 32

Let's also assume that there are exactly 100,000,000 voters in this district who vote exactly in this proportion.

On election day, the Democrat would get 350,000 votes from the Liberals and 165,000 votes from the moderates for a total of 515, 000 votes. The Republican would get 165,000 of the moderate vote and 320,000 of the Conservative vote for a total of 485, 000 votes.

Now, let's skew the enthusiasm gap with some of the numbers being suggested. Let's say that the 16% enthusiasm gap results in half that much of a change in turnout. In this case, 80,000 fewer voters show up for the liberals.

On election day, the Republican gets the same 485,000 votes he got before but the Democrat gets only 435,000. Thus, the Republican wins by about 5% because his voters were more enthusiastic about voting.

Make no mistake. It has been a lack of enthusiasm that has killed Conservatives in off-year elections and given Democrats victories in scores of places they had no business even being competitive. How could Kathleen Sebelius become Governor of Kansas?

Generic Congressional Ballot

The Generic Congressional Ballot is the answer to a simple question. Which part are you planning to vote for in your district? The Generic Congressional ballot can go hand in hand with the enthusiasm gap to an extent but it is also influenced by other things. The first are party identification and ideological identification. Changes in the percentage of those who are identifying themselves as Republicans, Democrats and Independents or Conservatives, Liberals and Moderates can show who is winning the arguments with the American people. In 2006 and 2008, Democrats were winning that argument but Liberals were not. Democrats actually enacted a strategy of running to the ideological right in Senate and Congressional elections by running scores of candidates on pro-life, pro-gun, fiscal conservative platforms. The wins of 2006 and 2008 for Democrats were actually not based on ideology at all. They were based on competence and effectiveness. The democrats never drew a line connecting conservatism or conservative policies to the violence in Iraq, corruption in congress, rising oil and gas prices, foreclosures and unemployment. In fact, the entire Democratic campaign was a post hoc fallacy. Democrats argued that since the violence in Iraq, corruption in congress, rising oil and gas prices, foreclosures and unemployment happened after the reelection of President Bush, they happened because of the reelection of President Bush. This is roughly like saying that since the stock market crash of 1929 and 9/11 were on Tuesdays, that Tuesdays cause disasters.

But I digress....

The reason that the Post hoc strategy was a stupid one for Democrats is that it set up a nasty little syllogism for Democrats in the minds of voters.

A) Problems all result from Republicans in power.
B) Republicans voted out of power.


C) Problems vanish

Democrats have clearly made our problems worse but Republicans, rather than simply engaging in ad hominem attacks, are making the case that it is specific policies that have us where we are today and that those policies must be changed and not just personnel.

Grass roots Conservatives have known this for some time, and that frustration has led to the rise of the Tea Party The Republicans have wisely embraced this growing force while Democrats have derided and slurred it- to their own detriment.

All of this has resulted in a shift in the political makeup of the country that- unlike the 2006 and 2008 shifts- has the potential to be enduring. That is because the Conservatives have made this case brilliantly. The issue was not that the Republicans were too Conservative, it was that they were not Conservative enough. Republicans have won a second chance with the American people because they have shown a willingness to clean up their own houses. Chasing long time Rinos from the party like Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist, Lisa Murkowski, and Mike Castle have convinced many American swing voters that the real hope and change is on the GOP side because it has separated the distinction between what it means to be a and what it means to be a Republican and what it means to be a Conservative. This is a critical part of the equation. The American people are very ready to get rid of what we have now but they are in no mood to go back to what we had in 2006. The embrace of the Tea party by the Republican party cannot be overestimated, especially in contrast to the arrogance and derision of the Democratic party.

The Democrats have come off as irresponsible, reckless, tin-eared, arrogant, smug and over bearing while the Republicans have come off as the party that has learned it's lesson. While the Democrats are perceived as ramming their agenda down America's throats, the Republicans are coming off as the party that hears the American people, knows what they want and knows how to deliver it for them.

In a sense, the Republicans have triangulated. "No, we are not the liberal Democrats" they are saying, "but we are not the same Republican party either". Incredibly, Democrats are saying the same thing about Republicans! Politicians like Bill Clinton and Joe Biden have been deriding the so-called Republican-Tea party as something very different, thus, reinforcing the very thing that is giving it appeal!

How does all this tie in to the Generic congressional ballot? After all, Democrats point out that the fall in the number of people declaring themselves to be Democrat has not resulted in a corresponding rise in those claiming to be Republicans. True enough. The largest growth has been among Independents. However, the issue isn't America becoming less Democratic and more Republican, it is in becoming less Liberal and more Conservative.

No, the Party affiliation survey has shown no great surge in the numbers of people willing to call themselves Republicans but the generic congressional ballot has seen a massive swing in the number of people willing to vote for Republicans.... but only If those Republicans are conservatives. The political graveyard is littered with establishment Republicans that didn't get the message. As a result of cleaning their own house, the Republicans have led in the Generic Congressional Ballot for a year and a half even during the times when approval of the party itself was in 3rd place behind Democrats and the Tea Party. In fact, leads in the Generic ballot have been as high as 13 points for Republicans- levels never seen before.


All of these things are wrapped up in one thing- turnout. All of the metrics I have given you are ways of trying to guess who will turn out on election day. There is one more. You can try to determine who will turn out by who has turned out. In 2008, approximately 120 million people turned out to vote and Barack Obama had about 8 million more of those people turn out for him than did John McCain. However, in the 2010 primary season, Republicans turned out 4 million more voters than Democrats did. Those numbers represented the largest number for Republicans in 40 years, the first time they out numbered Democrats in 70 years and the lowest Democrat total on record.

If the Republican advantage on election day is similar to this, the question is which '94 this will look like. Will it be like 1994, when Democrats lost 52 seats in the House? Or, will it be more like 1894, when they lost more than 100?

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