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Two Notes on “Person of the Year”

December 19, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

» Time: 2012 Person of the Year: Barack Obama, the President

Absolutely no shock in this year’s pick. But there are two particularly interesting passages written back-to-back in their write-up that I find particularly interesting. The first involves the transferability of the newfangled data-mining, data-crunching, hi-tech wizardy that people think won this election singlehandedly (emphasis mine).

The goals were the same as ever: more money in the bank, more door knocks, more phone calls, more voter registrations and more voters at the polls. But the methods for achieving those ends in 2012 bordered on the revolutionary. A squad of dozens of data crunchers created algorithms for predicting the likelihood that someone would respond to specific types of requests to accomplish each of those goals. Vast quantities of information were collected and then employed to predict just which television shows various target voters in certain cities were watching at just what time of day — the better to decide where to place TV ads. Facebook, which was an afterthought in 2008, became the new electronic telephone call, employed to persuade more than 600,000 Obama supporters to reach out to 5 million swing-state friends online with targeted messages in the days before the election. One woman in central Ohio who was living with her young voting-age daughter reported that her house got four different visits on the morning of Election Day, each from a different neighbor making sure both women had remembered to vote.

The geek squad also found new ways to make voters turn out their pockets. They refined meet-the-candidate lotteries into an art form, invented a system for texting dollars from a mobile phone that required entering only a single number and experimented with the language of e-mail pitches until they stung. Of his $1 billion campaign-cash haul, Obama was able to raise $690 million online in 2012, up from about $500 million in 2008. More than $200 million of that came in donations of $200 or less, a 10% increase over the history-making frenzy of 2008. In a campaign that big super-PAC money was supposed to dominate, Obama’s operation proved that many small efforts were more powerful than a few big ones. No one in either party thinks campaign finance will ever be the same.

How much of this survives for future Democrats when Obama exits the stage? Obama’s advisers are quick to say it won’t be around for others to tap. Too much of the Obama coalition, they say, is about Obama himself. It might reject anyone who tries to take up his mantle in a few years. “This organization is not transferable,” says a senior campaign adviser. “The next nominee on either side is going to have to build their own coalition.” But the Obama effort is going to try to live on. Bob Bauer, the campaign’s attorney, has been working on a plan for a new organization — likely to be incorporated as a nonprofit beyond the reach of the Democratic National Committee — that will be announced in the coming weeks. The idea is to create an outlet for Obama’s supporters, more than 80,000 of whom said after the election that they were willing to run for public office. A similar effort stumbled in 2009, when Obama reined in his grassroots supporters to avoid ruffling feathers in Congress. But the one thing Obama has learned in his first term is that he won’t be able to accomplish much in the second without an active outside game.

The algorithms, APIs, custom code, and other gizmos that were created in the course of the campaign were truly revolutionary in how they advanced the hard science that any massive organization should have on hand. But they don’t succeed without the candidate. And the concern of 2016 shouldn’t be whether the next Democratic nominee is capable of putting together the tech team. Instead, the first order of business should be whether they can come anywhere near close to the enthusiasm level among the various constituencies that Obama appealed to. I think a re-read of Eric Bonabeau’s “The Perils of the Imitation Age” are in order … as is another round of cries over the injustice of Bonabeau not extrapolating his ideas into a lengthier book format.

As much as I generally like Martin O’Malley and might be intrigued to hear out Andrew Cuomo and Brian Schweitzer if they choose to run in 2016, I don’t see someone getting into the race from that sort of mid-market platform and making the immediate impression that Obama did from 2004 to 2008. If that’s where we end up having a nominee from (and yes, HRC will have some say in the matter), then it should be interesting to see what narrative is created to talk about the success or failure of technology (in isolation) for a campaign operation.

The second point spotted with interest in the article has more to do with this homage to why some of us developed the blogging habit way back whenever …

He (Obama) began to navigate the issues in the days after the election by scribbling his hopes on a yellow legal pad. Obama has always thought best by writing, and for that reason he struggled to keep a diary during his first term, a task at which he hopes to redouble his efforts over the coming years. “In my life, writing has been an important exercise to clarify what I believe, what I see, what I care about, what my deepest values are,” he says. “The process of converting a jumble of thoughts into coherent sentences makes you ask tougher questions.”

That’s certainly been my experience in dealing with thoughts well beneath a Presidential paygrade.

Post-Election Aggreblogging, Round 1

December 4, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

A few items here that I wouldn’t want to let fall into the ether without a comment or two. This is just me doing a poor job of keeping up with interesting news items as I come across them, so if there’s anything particularly out of date among the items I ultimately post this week … now ya know why that might be.

» TPM: Nate Silver: Politico Covers Politics Like Sports But ‘Not In An Intelligent Way At All’
The Bill Simmons podcast that Silver’s quote is from is worth listening to in full. There are plenty of other useful insights from it … just be sure to not make a drinking game out of the number of times Silver uses the word “Right?” to end his points with. You’ll be drunk in 5 minutes regardless of your Body Mass Index. Depending on how productive the holiday trek to DFW is this season, I’ve got Silver’s book on my list of things I’d like to read during that time.

» Dem. Strategist: States with Election Day Registration Led Turnout in ’12
It remains to be seen whether this is a causal issue or merely coincidental. But I think getting same-day voter registration enacted in Texas would certainly help determine whether high turnout is a more of a function of midwestern historical voting habits or laws that enable more people to vote.

» NY Times: Beyond Black and White in the Mississippi Delta
There’s a lot for me to like in an article such as this: political coverage of town I lived in (Indianola) and the intersection of demographics and elections. But one flaw remains: you can’t adequately cover demographics and elections by comparing total population counts to who wins elections. There’s nothing in the story that adequately proves blacks in the towns mentioned supported the white mayors (though I’d suspect that they might have) and there’s no mention of the fact that just because a demographic group makes up 65% of the town’s population doesn’t mean they make up a similar amount of the electorate. Ignoring that difference is what tends to send me looking for a 2×4 to smack against my skull.

In Case I Ever Get Around to Maryland

December 3, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

» Wash. Post: Washington suburbs pivotal in Maryland vote on ballot initiatives

Somewhere in the midst of election analysis, I owe it to myself to get around to looking at the Maryland ballot measures in more detail. For now, this’ll tide me over …

Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County), who led online petition drives to bring several measures before voters, said the analysis shows how the ballot questions transcended traditional political boundaries.

“Prince George’s County was strongly for Obama, yet it came out against changing the definition of marriage,” he said. “Anne Arundel County was pro-Romney, and it went for changing the definition of marriage. What we see are people voting values that don’t necessarily match up with what their party affiliation is.”

Exit polling done in Maryland on Election Day showed that same-sex marriage was overwhelmingly supported by voters younger than 40 and rejected by every other older group of voters. It won among white men and women and among black women, but it was rejected by black men. Voters who are college graduates, liberal, unmarried, high-income and do not regularly attend religious services were far more likely to support gay marriage than voters who are conservative, have incomes below $100,000 or are weekly church-goers.

I’m old enough to recognize that political coalitions that fragment over specific issues such as these have a hard time holding firm over time. You can review how the Religious Right movement picked away at pro-life Democrats beginning in the 70s for pretty decent lesson in how that works. But what seems to be interesting here (and even evidenced here) is that it doesn’t seem to be a one-way phenomenon. How much of a disparity the issue divide matters in each party’s coalition is still something to speculate on and possibly even measure more objectively. But either way, this should be worth remembering if we ever see changes in Democratic Party support levels among African-Americans, Hispanics … and possibly even Asians.

Almanac Updates: Dallas and Fort Bend County House Districts

A few nuggets from the Almanac updates I’m still slowly getting around to …

Since I’m crunching the data from the big counties and their official or unofficial canvasses, I’m trying to keep a few of the countywide contests in the overview. This gives a little bit of insight into two GOP-held Dallas County districts: HD105 and HD107, which were contested by Dem candidates Rosemary Robbins and Robert Miklos respectively. Both ended up losing fairly close contests. But both were also won by Dallas County Tax Assessor, John Ames. Obviously, everything comes down to whether re-redistricting happens by the 2014 elections, but those should be ground zero for Dem pickup opportunities if the maps hold.

In HD112, Angie Chen Button didn’t have any competition for re-election. But her district didn’t lose much ground from the 2008-level competitiveness it saw.

HD114 had a great Dem candidate trying to pick up a seat. But it was about as out-of-reach as anticipated, with even a status quo district likely to be even harder in a non-Presidential year next time.

The newly-configured HD115 ended up being a bit closer than I’d have expected. Again, assuming the status quo holds for 2014 maps, it could be interesting to see whether this one gets a more aggressive challenge since incoming Rep.-elect Bennett Ratliff comes from the “good GOP” Ratliffs and is likely to pick up some pro-education support.

I’ve also added the Fort Bend districts, where we can see the relative performances in HD26 and the impact of Dora Olivo’s campaign experience in HD85 (which has the non-Ft. Bend Counties included in the totals).

Not included anywhere in the Almanac yet, but worth mentioning here is County Commissioner Richard Morrison’s performance in winning re-election. All that’s needed to be remembered about this district is that it was marginally Republican when Morrison first won it in 2008 and that redistricting didn’t change the boundaries in this election. Oh, and Morrison’s opponent this time was a Pennsylvanian outted for vote fraud. Good news for Morrison, but good luck getting swing votes in a Presidential year … right?

Here’s how the contests played out in the first precinct …

President
-------------------------
Romney   - 26,750 (56.1%)
Obama    - 20,500 (43.0%)

US Senate
-------------------------
Cruz     - 26,476 (55.8%)
Sadler   - 20,072 (42.3%)

County Commissioner
-------------------------
Fleming  - 22,955 (49.3%)
Morrison - 23,640 (50.7%)

No other Dem on the ballot broke 45% in Precinct 1. Congrats again to Morrison on this win. For the record, the next-most Dem-friendly County Commissioner seat in Fort Bend is the Sugar Land-centric Precinct 4 held by James Patterson. Obama won 40.5% there while downballot Dems fell just shy of 41%. Given Sugar Land’s Asian vote, I’ll simply point out that one of those downballot candidates to perform well there was 1st Court of Appeals nominee Kathy Cheng, with 40.8%. Might be something to suggest for a local Chinese-American Dem willing to run there if you ask me.

That’s about it for progress, so far. I’ll try and work in some Bexar County research since there seems to be some publicity about the GOTV work funded by Mikal Watts and executed by local consultants. My .02 regarding publicity like this stands firm. And a cursory glance at the EV vs E-Day numbers in San Antonio seem to suggest nothing more than a shift of E-Day voters to Early Voters. Maybe there’s something there that isn’t visible in the totals. But I’m skeptical.

One local sidenote that drives me somewhat mad, while I’m at it. Apparently, the total number of registered voters counted on the canvass here in Harris County is taken from the voter roll counts at a much earlier point in time than those available to vote on Election Day. I know this because of some time lost on my part counting cattle in HD137. If you go through the Registered Vote counts by election cycle, as reported to the state, it would seem that my fair district lost votes every cycle. A rather shocking 20% drop since 2002, in fact.

Well, I happened to get a handful of counts the old-fashioned way: downloading the precinct data and getting the totals from each. Here’s my math …

08/06/2012 ... 47,665
09/24/2012 ... 48,174
10/14/2012 ... 49,061
10/21/2012 ... 49,407
10/25/2012 ... 49,729
-----------------------
2012 Harris County Final ...
               48,003

Granted, the reason this is important to me is because the Gene Wu campaign invested quite a bit in voter registration this past election. We saw some impressive results in areas where we concentrated our efforts and that’s work that I look forward to doing again. I know we ended up with the first net-positive gain in registered voters in this configuration of HD137. It would have been nice to see that reflected in the official numbers.

But the reality is that Registered Vote counts (and by extension, turnout levels) are among the biggest crapshoots for interpretation. Counties vary in how they’ve maintained the voter rolls and yet turnout levels tend to get quoted as if they were sacred mantras. They aren’t.

Just as well. Next time, I’m looking to break the 50k barrier.

Ted Cruz and the Hispanic Vote: Harris County edition

November 22, 2012 Politics-2012 1 Comment

Following up from both Kuff (twice) and some natural curiosity over the impact of Ted Cruz (and GOP Hispanic candidates in general) among Hispanic voters, I thought I’d do a little bit of cartographic number-crunching to look at the issue.

I haven’t gotten too far out of Harris County in any election analysis yet, so I’m limiting my view close to home with a bit of a presumption that what we see in Harris is probably mirrored in the DFW Metroplex and maybe Bexar County. Whether it mirrors anything in South Texas or rural Hispanic areas is something worth another round of testing. But here’s what we see in Harris County for now …

The first thing that should jump out to anyone asking whether Ted Cruz benefited from crossover Hispanic votes is that there is a net vote dropoff for both Cruz and Paul Sadler compared to their Presidential counterparts. That tracks with a very common down-ballot concern – that your party’s vote dropoff may be greater than that of the other party. Pre-2008, the pattern was that GOP voters would dropoff at a greater level than Dem voters once they got down to judicial races. 2008 was a sea change as the operating theory suggests that a large number of new voters came to the polls and, in significantly large numbers, didn’t vote downballot. The result was that we saw Dem judicials with about the same dropoff problem as Republican judicials.

A case in point can be seen in 2004 among the judicial vote dropoff:

        Total Ballots   President     Avg Judicial
------------------------------------------------------
2004    1,088,793      1,067,988    1,006,443 (94.24%)
            R            584,723      536,241 (91.71%)
            D            475,865      470,202 (98.81%)

The right-hand column shows the percentage of the Presidential vote that held in the average judicial result. Basically, you have a much more cohesive vote on the Dem side in 2004, while GOP voters were much more likely to drop off. The results weren’t meaningful enough to give any Dem judicial a win, but they were enough to give hope that the gap could be narrowed as demographic change might make the county more competitive over time.

Here’s what the situation looks like in the Obama years:

        Total Ballots   President     Avg Judicial
------------------------------------------------------
2008    1,188,731      1,171,472    1,101,014 (94.24%)
            R            571,883      541,257 (94.64%)
            D            590,982      559,757 (94.72%)

        Total Ballots   President     Avg Judicial
------------------------------------------------------
2012    1,188,731      1,185,722    1,131,078 (95.39%)
            R            584,866      563,488 (96.34%)
            D            585,451      567,590 (96.95%)

There’s still a modest advantage for Dems going downballot, but the difference is narrowed greatly. In years where Obama was winning a close race countywide, this was enough to keep the judicials over the top.

That brings us to 2012. And with the US Senate contest, we’re dealing with a race higher on the ballot and one that doesn’t generally generate as much vote dropoff compared to the judicials. Here’s what the pattern of vote dropoff looks like in Harris County for US Senate races in Presidential years:

      Total Ballots    President         US Senate
------------------------------------------------------
2000      995,631        974,426      941,968 (96.67%)
2008    1,188,731      1,171,472    1,151,174 (98.27%)
2012    1,204,167      1,188,585    1,174,884 (98.85%)

And here’s what the party dropoff comparison looks like in 2012:

      Total Ballots    President         US Senate
-----------------------------------------------------
2012    1,204,167      1,188,585    1,174,884 (98.85%)
	        R            584,866      581,197 (99.37%)
	        D            585,451      562,955 (96.16%)

What we don’t know from this is how much of the vote that dropped off for Sadler went over to Cruz. I think it’s realistic to assume that that’s decent chunk of the vote. But we know that it’s not 100% of the movement. So here’s where we can get into the weeds a little and see where the vote movement happened. To do this, I ran two calculations:

1. The dropoff of vote from Obama to Sadler as a percentage of Obama’s vote count in a precinct. (O-Sadler)
2. The dropoff of vote from Romney to Cruz as a percentage of Romney’s vote count in a precinct. (R-Cruz)

With that, there are two maps to show the results. For the sake of avoiding the problem of small precincts skewing the results, I limited the precinct selection to those with more than First, the O-Sadler findings …


full pageGoogle Earth

And, secondly, the R-Cruz findings …


full pageGoogle Earth

The color-coding for both is as follows:

Dark Blue: Senate candidates beat Presidential candidates in raw vote count
Light Blue: Senate candidates underperform Presidentials by 0-2% of the Presidential nominee’s total vote count
Purple: Senate candidates underperform Presidentials by 2-4% of the Presidential nominee’s total vote count
Red: Senate candidates underperform Presidentials by >4% of the Presidential nominee’s total vote count

Or, in short, you can look at the dark blue as areas where the Senate candidates overperformed and the red as areas where they significantly underperformed. Performance being defined here as a function of vote dropoff.

In Sadler’s case, the areas where he overperformed were areas where Democratic voters are likelier to be wealthy Anglos and underperformed in heavily Hispanic areas. In Cruz’s case, however, his overperformance is not limited to just Hispanic areas. He also overperformed in many heavily African-American parts of the county. Kuff’s post has aggregates by House District and you can definitely see the pickup that Cruz gets in districts such as HD131 (Alma Allen), HD139 (Sylvester Turner), HD141 (Senfronia Thompson), and HD142 (Harold Dutton). While there are certainly some Hispanic pockets of votes in those districts – some more significant than others – I think it warrants an explanation that the under-reported aspect of all of this is that Sadler just lagged in many areas due to more structural problems like not having resources to compete statewide in a meaningful way. That Sadler’s dropoff problem is as pervasive as it seems doesn’t suggest to me that it’s an isolated issue, even if the bigger disparity is in Hispanic areas.

In fact, in many of the heaviest African-American precincts, you can see a negative R-Cruz and a positive O-Sad number. That means that Ted Cruz got more votes than Romney at the same time that Sadler was getting fewer than the President in heavily African-American boxes. Whether that’s due to Hispanic voters in those areas shifting over to Cruz or some other movement of votes is beyond the reach of data like this.

But I wouldn’t carpet-categorize Cruz’s showing in Harris County as purely the impact of Hispanic voters crossing over to support him any more than I’d suggest that the wealthy Anglo parts of town suggest a lack of support for Cruz (either due to an unwillingness to support a Hispanic candidate or for any other reason). Likewise, I think that suggesting that Cruz’s appeal was more strictly connected to Hispanic voters ignores the impact seen in African-American areas. Is anyone writing columns about Ted Cruz’s support among African-American swing voters? Certainly not that I see.

The reality is that you have a combination of effects. And given the fact that Sadler never had a chance to compete given the lack of financial resources, I’d at least begin with the suggestion that you had a broader problem there and that it was augmented by any support among Hispanic voters unrelated to the previous issue. That’s obviously very difficult to put into a 600-word column to distill the situation down into a more easily-digested takeaway from the event. But if I’m looking at a situation such as this and seriously wondering how to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, I think reality suggests that resources matter. How much do they matter against a high-profile Hispanic Republican running? We obviously don’t have a terrific comparison without getting into more apple vs orange issues.

Rewinding to the days when San Antonio Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla used to contemplate a statewide run, I’m not sure that I’d lump Cruz’s ascension to the Senate as the creation of an 800-pound political gorilla that Democrats can’t beat because he’s cutting into the Hispanic vote too much. Cruz ended up with less than a third of a percentage point more than Mitt Romney in Harris County. I’d argue that if Sadler had the resources that even Rick Noriega had in 2008, the results could have been more favorable for Sadler. There still may be a long way to go to turn Texas purple as a whole. But I’m not sure I’d put that much movement in the category of a game-changer for Texas Republicans to stave off demographic inevitability forever.

Shameless Self-Promotion (now with Mediterranean food)

November 19, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Tonight, join Sharpstown’s finest – myself and Stace Medellin – as the Meyerland Democrats foist us upon their membership at the club’s January meeting. I’ll be the one bringing maps and talking about election outcomes in the county and in Meyerland.

Seriously, who can resist that? I’m pretty sure that Fadi’s serves alcohol if that helps, though.

Lost Reading from an Obvious Post-Election Outcome

November 19, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Election Day beyond HD137 was a bit anti-climactic for me. Anyone who doesn’t rely on rightwing media knew that Obama was going to be re-elected. Locally, I think Adrian Garcia was a somewhat assumed winner before the votes were revealed. So forgive me if it’s taken me a while to catch up on all of my “How Obama Did It” reading.

» New Yorker: The Party Next Time

Quoting Senator-elect Ted Cruz …

“In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat,” …. “If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple. We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. ‘They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don’t exist anymore.’ ”

Probably worth keeping Matt Yglesias’ tweet in mind before we get too far ahead of ourselves …

But there are some traditional problems with the analytics mentioned in the article. This from state GOP chair, Steve Munisteri …

“The state is fifty-five per cent traditional minority. Thirty-eight per cent is Hispanic, eleven per cent is African-American, and the rest is Asian-American, and two-thirds of all births are in a traditional minority family. And if I was to tell you that, nationwide, last time, Republicans got only roughly four per cent of the African-American vote and about a third of the Hispanic vote, would you say that state is Democrat or Republican? Well, that’s Texas. We are the only majority-minority state in the union that people consider Republican.”

Those numbers are from Total Population. By the time you work it down to Citizen, Voting Age Population (CVAP), Texas is actually 59% Anglo. Like it or not, that’s the operative metric that most shapes Texas’ electoral outcome. Factor in turnout differentials among geography where different demographies dominate, and you get an even uglier picture. Citizenship among Hispanics should continue to go rise, with or without the GOP’s newfangled minor interest in immigration reform. But that’s a much more gradual process than a magazine article is likely able to pitch on a reader with less than 5 minutes to spare for reading time.

» TechPresident: With The Help of Digital Infrastructure, Obama Wins Re-election
» The Atlantic: When the Nerds Go Marching In
» LA Times: Obama’s data geeks have made Karl Rove and Dick Morris obsolete
» Washington Post: Obama’s ‘Moneyball’ campaign (Marc Thiessen)
» National Journal: Republicans Flame Romney’s Digital Team
» The Atlantic: The GOP Talent Gap (Patrick Ruffini)
» Politico: Romney poll watching app reportedly glitchy
Articles like these are an inevitable side-effect of politics – when you win, you sell whatever it was you did as a gamechanging artform that necessitates the subject of the story being hired by future campaigns at higher rates for over-sold effects. See the file for “Trippi, Joe” and all of the post-Howard Dean pitches for instant riches of online fundraising totals. And if you lose, the competitor project to the previously mentioned gamechanger is an instant goat. Or, in this case … Orca.

All that said, I find the articles above more informative for what they say about human psychology than they do about campaign technology. You can expect to see a slew of campaign press releases announcing their hires for CTO in 2014 and 2016. You can expect some pre-spin on how some of these folks will change the way we do politics (see “Perry, Rick” and the individual chapters of “paperless campaigning“; “creative uses of felons to get votes“; and “how to turn all of that into a winning Presidential campaign two years later” [link forthcoming ... maybe]). But I wouldn’t expect it to matter any more than the candidate him- or herself. There’s no substitute for a quality candidate. Too bad that doesn’t seem to come across in these resume attachments passing as post-election news.

» Talking Points Memo: Forget Nate Silver: Meet The Guy Who Called 2012 In 2002
This, of course, isn’t entirely distinct from the articles above. But Ruy Teixeira and John Judis do have the distinction of not being campaign hacks in search of their next gig. I’ve had some quarrels with the writeup of the Emerging Democratic Majority concept. But the authors did properly identify some key demographics that help Democratic candidates. The book is definitely easier reading after 2012 than it was after 2004. But the biggest hangup still seems to be that it was a thesis written by think tankers promoting an idea moreso than social scientists researching it in more detail.

» NY Times: Is the Voting Rights Act Doomed? (Nathaniel Persily)

In a coarse and obvious sense, the re-election of a black president serves as a strong reminder that the historic obstacles to minority voting rights like literacy tests and poll taxes have been eliminated. The much discussed rise in the minority share of the electorate testifies to the decisive electoral power that previously disenfranchised communities now possess. Even if the president received only 15 percent of the white vote in Alabama and 11 percent in Mississippi, according to exit polls, he was able to assemble a diverse winning coalition elsewhere.

Professor Persily’s amicus briefs and academic writings are quality reading for my taste. But this reads more like blasé answer to a Times’ editor asking what an Obama win might mean for the VRA. As such, it neglects the reality that the VRA isn’t in place as an answer to a Presidential election as much as it is to more localized elections within an individual state or county. Of course, that’s not to say that the opinions of Scalia and Thomas will be aware of any of that.

» Washington Post: Kirk said to be leaving job as U.S. Trade Rep
I’d be a little shocked if Ron Kirk still sees an elected official in the mirror these days. But he’s still a Texas name worth keeping an eye on. First things first … wait and see if he’s headed over to Commerce.

2012 Election Mapping: METRO GMP Referendum

November 14, 2012 Politics-2012 6 Comments

Here’s the METRO referendum on General Mobility Payments, with light blue indicating that the Yesses were between 50%-75%.


full pageGoogle Earth

The binary views are availalbe here if desired: full pageGoogle Earth

On the whole, the referendum passed as follows:

Yes: 78.84%
No: 21.16%

It takes some straining to see, but there does appear to be a faint view of some Anglo Dem angst at Metro inside the loop. It obviously wasn’t enough to turn a majority in many precincts as almost all of the pure, “No” boxes were simply due to low numbers in split precincts voting against.

What you’d make of the lack of enthusiasm for the referendum outside of that, I’m interested in hearing any theories.

2012 Election Mapping: Houston Prop B

November 14, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Late start for mapping today. Here’s the Parks proposition for the City of Houston, with light blue indicating that the Yesses were between 50%-75%.


full pageGoogle Earth

The binary views are availalbe here if desired: full pageGoogle Earth

On the whole, the proposition passed as follows:

Yes: 68.05%
No: 31.95%

There definitely seems to be a strong base of support in much of the Anglo Dem turf as well as some spots of Anglo GOP turf. It might be interesting to see how this map overlays with some of the key projects planned for the bond funds.

2012 Election Mapping: The Near Misses in Harris County

November 13, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Looking at the nearest misses among House Districts for Democrats, it’s no surprise that HD134 will likely be a hot contest throughout the decade. That’s not just due to the district being as near parity as any district in the county as it is that the area serves as home to a number of high-quality potential candidates.

What’s been emerging ever since the housing boom of the 2000s is the changing demographics on Houston’s far west side. Below the fold is a snapshot of the Sheriff results with the district outlines. If Democrats are going to make any kind of run at growing their ranks in the Lege, these two districts will be the ones that have to flip.

Oddly enough, HD134 has always had the extra challenge of its electoral competitiveness being more intractable than elsewhere. This is due in part to there not being a great deal of new construction driving demographic change. That stands in fairly stark contrast to HD132. Granted, we’re likely to see another round of redistricting in the next session, but if these districts were to stand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see HD132 flip before HD134.




2012 Election Mapping: US President (in Harris County)

November 13, 2012 Politics-2012 4 Comments

Romney v Obama, the conclusion in Harris County …


full pageGoogle Earth

The results in this race were:

Barack Obama (D) – 49.38%
Mitt Romney (R) – 49.33%

2012 Election Mapping: US Senate (in Harris County)

November 13, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Cruz vs Sadler, in technicolor …


full pageGoogle Earth

The results in this race were:

Ted Cruz (R) – 49.58%
Paul Sadler (D) – 48.02%

2012 Election Mapping: Harris County Sheriff

November 13, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Guthrie vs Garcia, all mapped out …


full pageGoogle Earth

The results in this race were:

Adrian Garcia (D) – 52.95%
Louis Guthrie (R) – 45.20%

ADD-ON: For the sake of comparison, here’s the 2008 map of Adrian Garcia’s showing against incumbent, Tommy Thomas.

2012 Election Mapping: HD137

November 13, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Unofficial canvass out for the county. Here’s HD137 in cartographic form …


View HD137 – 2012 General Election in a larger map

The info boxes show the Obama-12 and Obama-08 results, as well as relevant performance for Scott Hochberg in 2010. I’m pretty sure Scott had some 2006 showings that were as good or better, for what it’s worth.

I don’t see any surprises in this map in terms of red vs blue. There were certainly some great showings in the red precincts, where Gene Wu definitely had some evidence of about 5-6 points worth of crossover support. Also worth pointing out some of the crossover support that MJ Khan got in Pct. 430 – home to two mosques and a few apartment complexes relatively well populated by Pakistanis and Muslims who prefer the walking distance to them. I’ll take a 43% showing in Briarmeadow to that any day considering that that was better than Adrian Garcia’s showing. Bigger news is that Pct. 256 seems to be pulling away from “swing” status.

Election Season Math: In Review

November 10, 2012 feature, Politics-2012 No Comments

Following from some earlier posts about number-crunching in election season, here’s a starter for what I saw as the Early Votes came in …

At the county level, there were multiple ways of looking at how the Early Vote crowd voted. The two different individualized scores showed the electorate at 45.45% Dem and 54.16% Dem at the pessimistic and optimistic ends of the spectrum. Accounting for the biases seen in the 2008 electorate, these two scores placed the outcome at about 48-49% Dem.

The DPI-by-Precinct scores showed the Obama results clocking in at 49.98% Dem – less than a half point behind the pace from 2008. And since that score is in a multi-candidate field, it would be enough to open up Election Night with a small lead.

The reality was an opening mark of 48.00% (behind Romney) for Obama and a closing mark of 49.38% (ahead of Romney) for Obama.

Below is what the results showed among some of the districts in Harris County with contested district races. Two obvious DPI scores I chose were ones that had an easy correlation to 2012: Barack Obama and Adrian Garcia. I didn’t expect either of them to do as well as they did in 2008, so I added CO Bradford’s results from his District Attorney race to see how a narrow loss in 2008 might translate. Later in the process, as the results started showing a very 50-50 county, I added two judicials: Ashish Mehendru and Josefina Rendon. Rendon was the narrowest win in 2008 and Mehendru’s showing was the low end of the range from that year.

Finally, to compile a somewhat pessimistic average DPI of my own, I folded each of these into an average DPI score. Traditionally, the DPI scores created by others are just that – an average. And on a good day, they’ll tell you what they’re averaging.

                                    DPI SCORES
                     -----------------------------------------------------
        | ACTUAL EV |   Avg   | Obama  Garcia  Bradford | Mehendru  Rendon
--------|-----------|---------|-------------------------|-----------------
HD134   |   42.6%   |  43.0%  | 46.1%   49.8%   39.9%   | 39.7%    39.5%
HD135   |   37.7%   |  39.5%  | 39.3%   45.2%   38.3%   | 36.6%    38.0%
HD137   |   63.6%   |  63.2%  | 62.9%   67.5%   62.0%   | 61.2%    62.6%
HD139   |   79.2%   |  77.5%  | 77.0%   81.0%   76.7%   | 75.9%    77.1%
HD141   |   89.4%   |  86.5%  | 86.1%   88.2%   86.4%   | 85.6%    86.4%
HD143   |   71.0%   |  68.5%  | 64.4%   74.2%   68.0%   | 66.4%    69.7%
HD144   |   46.6%   |  51.7%  | 47.4%   58.6%   51.4%   | 48.8%    52.3%
HD149   |   58.9%   |  55.0%  | 54.6%   58.9%   54.1%   | 53.1%    54.2%
HD150   |   28.6%   |  31.7%  | 31.2%   37.7%   30.9%   | 28.8%    30.1%
CD2     |   30.6%   |  36.1%  | 36.6%   42.5%   34.9%   | 33.4%    33.4%
CD7     |   34.7%   |  38.5%  | 40.1%   44.5%   36.6%   | 35.7%    35.7%
CD18    |   76.5%   |  77.6%  | 77.3%   81.1%   76.9%   | 76.3%    76.3%
Const 1 |   59.0%   |  61.3%  | 61.8%   67.3%   59.4%   | 59.1%    59.1%
--------|-----------|---------|-------------------------|-----------------
COUNTY  |   48.0%   |  50.3%  | 50.0%   55.5%   49.2%   | 47.9%    49.2%

I found each of these DPI scores instructive, so I let them stand on their own. For instance, Obama’s DPI isn’t necessarily instructive for many Hispanic districts – and I think this is visible in HD143. Obama tends to perform at the low end of the spectrum of scores and local Hispanic candidates typically perform better. For a district like that, looking at Adrian Garcia’s DPI score is more helpful. And averaging down that peak score is even more helpful.

What surprised me upon seeing the first Early Vote numbers, was how close the numbers were in HD137 and HD147. In the case of 137, there’s a small sample size of only 28 precincts. As mentioned before, I ignored the DPI number all through EV and chose to focus on the individual scores, which had our district between 57-59%. Hubert Vo’s HD149 is instructive for how crossover votes aren’t accounted for in a DPI model like this. That’s always going to be an X-factor unless you have a very well-developed ID program with the data fed into the voter database and tracked closely. Most State Rep campaigns won’t have the manpower for that, so you’re really left to play that by ear in the real world.

All in all, I continue to be surprised by how accurate this approach is. If you take a look at what Robert Miller posted on E-Day, you’ll see what has traditionally been offered. This is basically showing the count of “Hard/Soft Dems”, “Hard/Soft Republicans” and a big “unknown” category mistakenly identified as “Independent”. I’ve heard those counts offered year in and year out – usually as proof that Dems were going to win big right before they didn’t.

I’d suggest to everyone that there is a significantly better way to measure Early Voting without getting that 20-30% unknown factor. This is the second cycle that I’ve used this approach and it’s been fairly good. There’s certainly some artistic license that goes with it to determine what kind of DPI measurement is best for a given race. In 2010, we were staring at wildly optimistic DPI’s from vendors assuming that 2006 and 2008 were a good basis of comparison. The 2010 results I posted were based on the DPI scores provided by NCEC, which is the standard place a lot of campaigns go for that information. But I’d suggest that if you have a good enough research ability on your team, you can and should know your own turf better than a national political shop.

Anyways, that’s what I saw going on during Early Voting. I’d hope that results like this could be posted publicly at some point in the future. But campaigns are fairly selfish entities, so I’m not sure how likely that is.

Press Clippings From Election Night

November 9, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Here’s all the glowing coverage a freshman State Rep gets upon winning his first November election:

» Chron: Republican Davis appears to win hard-fought state House race

Likewise, Democrat Gene Wu was well ahead in the race to succeed the retiring Scott Hochberg in District 137. Wu, a former Harris County assistant district attorney, was comfortably ahead of M.J. Khan, a former Houston city council member.

The early draft had Gene covered with one solitary sentence.

» TX Tribune: Get to Know the Newest Texas Lawmakers

Amid a clip of Gene’s bio page online, there’s this peculiarity …

He was endorsed by various Democratic legislators involved in criminal justice policy, including Sens. Rodney Ellis and John Whitmire.

Also, he was endorsed by various Democratic legislators involved in … Harris County.

Ah well. They’ve got two years to get to know him better.

About Last Tuesday

November 8, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

So, this happened …

Candidate      |   Absentee   |      Early    |   Election   |    Total
---------------|--------------|---------------|--------------|--------------
Gene Wu (D)    |   508 41.78% |  8,771 65.54% | 6,510 69.06% | 15,789 65.72%
M. J. Khan (R) |   708 58.22% |  4,611 34.46% | 2,916 30.94% |  8,235 34.28%
---------------|--------------|---------------|--------------|--------------
Cast Votes:    | 1,216 95.75% | 13,382 96.16% | 9,426 94.56% | 24,024 95.51%
---------------|--------------|---------------|--------------|--------------

Registered Voters: 48,003
Ballots Cast:      25,154
Turnout:           52.40%

I’ll now be on an apology tour of my own since I’ve been far more pessimistic of how HD137 would perform. Check the 2008 math yourself, but the best showing from that year was Linda Yanez’s 62.8%. My notes suggested that precincts that turned out abnormally for Obama in 2008 would not repeat at those levels and that the 2004 results were somewhat instructive as a bit of a floor-level performance. To me, that translated to a floor of 55%, with about eight years of demographic change tacked on for good measure. So for the last three weeks of the campaign, I basically told everyone that we could expect to finish somewhere between 57-59% and if we did 60-62, it would be due to Obama more than anything we did. I have no idea where the heck 65% comes from.

Obviously, getting a draft of the county’s canvassed results will help. But I’m really curious how Gene did compared to the President in our district. Next door to us, Hubert Vo similarly beat expectations that I had, but I can chalk up some of that to a track record of swing voters – both from the Vietnamese community and the Alief business community that Hubert has cultivated. So maybe the results in these two Southwest Houston districts are coincidental of a “new normal” for the Obama years. Or maybe there’s more to the story. The numbers will tell more of this story.

I’ll save the remainder of my frenzied number-crunch festival for other posts. For this, I think there’s one point to put on the story of Gene Wu’s first run for political office. When I first met Gene, I was a bit player at a table full of more important people who talked to Gene about possibly running for office some day. I can’t claim instant inspiration as I was busy making my points that there were a few skills needed for successful campaigning that I felt I hadn’t seen in this brief encounter. I’d seen a number of candidates with great resumes hitting the right point in their life for a political run, who had flamed out in single digits because they lacked several of the basics for being a candidate.

The last time I saw Gene before he was a candidate for State Representative was a different story. A few days after Scott Hochberg announced his retirement, I was told that he’d be stopping by the office pretty late in the day. It turns out that our shop was the second stop on Gene’s post-work schedule. The first involved a meeting where he was asked not to run. Ours involved a much more focused and driven Gene Wu than the first meeting we had with him. Whatever concerns I had then were out the window. This was something he wanted and he was committed to doing well.

With the decision set, all I knew was that there was just no way I could be involved in a State Rep race that included my neck of Southwest Houston without winning. Hard to sound like you know something if you can’t even win your own back yard. Our competition included a candidate backed by a State Rep respected for his campaign savvy. Another candidate was backed by one of the two biggest fundraisers in the county and had a ton of connections due to being the former Executive Director of the Harris County Democratic Party. The last candidate was a woman from the Alief ISD Board of Trustees.

At first glance, one woman in a field of four seemed like a legitimate threat. I figured she was capable of getting 20% with little-to-no effort due to any combination of gender and/or her background on the school board. She finished with 11%. The guy backed by the State Rep won the Chronicle endorsement and had some killer fundraising at the end of the primary to spend on anything he wanted. I figured he’d be a given for the runoff. He finished third with 21.8%. The candidate backed by the big fundraiser, I believe, did an effective job of campaigning in the apartments in the district. He may have benefited some from being the only African-American in the district, but he exceeded the numbers that would have fallen his way due to that in both the Primary and the Runoff.

All we had was an unproven Asian kid in a district that’s less than 12% Asian with a primary electorate that very well could have clocked in at under 6% Asian. As simple as it sounds, Gene was committed to blockwalking. I was happy to cut turf for him to talk to voters directly. I was happy to have a budget to send some mail to voters. I was happy that I got my choice of campaign managers for Gene in Beth Martin. But for all that happiness, there were still no guarantees that I wouldn’t be doing non-political work after the May primary.

Since Gene did manage to earn the nomination, the next step was to go up against a former City Council Member who could write whatever check he wanted to fund his campaign after passing the hat to his just-as-wealthy friends. We knew we’d be out-raised and out-mailed. We were. We knew that MJ Khan was familiar with parts of the district that he represented on City Council. That turned out to be a questionable thesis. We knew we’d be attacked. We were. And we knew that we also had to struggle to get money in the bank just to do some fundamental level of campaigning. All while Gene went off and got married. No problem.

What worked for us despite this time crunch was that Gene got better as a candidate with each passing day. The Gene Wu I first met would be prepping for a new District Attorney as his boss if he hadn’t. By August, Gene had been in fifth gear for quite a while. Still, I figured there would be a few points worth of swing votes that might go MJ’s way. I still pegged the district fundamentals at about 57% Dem. True to form, the attack mail goes out on Gene and is followed by $25,000 worth of cable ads attacking him. We limited our contrast mailer strictly to issue-based items on education and public safety. Gene blockwalked some more. And it was through that that we found out that MJ wasn’t being entirely honest with voters at the door. Gene never shied away from telling anyone he was a Democrat. MJ and his staff were leaving voters with the impression that HE was the Democrat. The more Gene walked, the most MJ Khan signs came out of yards as voters got the facts.

For staffing our three Early Vote locations we needed to worry about, we sent only Gene to one of them. The campaign manager, Beth Martin, did yeoman’s work by begging and pleading for as many E-Day poll workers as possible, knowing there just weren’t enough unemployed friends of Gene to staff all of 22 locations. In short, the final days offered plenty to be paranoid and nervous about.

And in the end, it didn’t matter. We’ll see soon enough how the district performed in other contests. But what makes me happiest is that my little ‘hood is represented well for the next two years. Scott Hochberg is a tough act to follow and there’s no point filling his shoes. Gene’s shoes (and boots) are a little road-worn from the walk lists I handed him this year. But they’ll do just fine.

One coda on worth sharing from the little amount of work that I did on this project ….

A fair amount of the work I did during the Primary and Runoff was air-conditioned campaign work. That’s a luxurious life that I knew wouldn’t cut it in the General. Some of you may be happy to know that I wore out my left knee climbing apartment stairwells. If you see any knee tendons or ligaments somewhere in a Westchase apartment complex … they’re mine. Please return them. I was too busy failing miserably at trying to keep up with a campaign manager who was just a few years past being a college athlete. Physically, I’m sure that I’ll heal from that.

Saved for Determining Momentum vs Anecdote in 2016

November 4, 2012 Politics-2012 3 Comments

Upon picking up as many Gene Wu signs as possible at Early Vote locations, I arrived Friday night at the Alief Library to see a line wrapped around the Kirkwood side of the building. What was more impressive about the line was that we were arriving at nearly 8pm. What was less impressive was that it meant our quick sign pickup venture would turn into an unplanned, hour-long campaign festival. Here’s what it looked like without the Kirkwood side of the building …

So this brought on a little inquiry about the makeup of voters who were casting votes late into Friday night around the county. It turns out that there were 9,872 voters who cast their votes from 7pm on. Many of those may have been in line since well before 7pm, but this is a good enough timestamp to apply universally. Remember that Friday saw over 11% of the votes cast by voters who were in line at or near 7pm and ended up waiting as long as 9:49 at the Alief Library. The overall lengthiest closing time was 10:30pm at the Franz Road Storefront.

A quick glance at the data might suggest good things for Republicans. The Champion Life Center in HD150 was the biggest post-7pm location and several other heavy GOP areas are in the Top 10 list for number of voters who cast their votes in this time period. Alief, it turns out, was only the 8th biggest such location.

But putting the raw data into VAN gets a surprising result: the total of such voters throughout the county were roughly 57-59% Democratic. That’s compared to a full Friday reading that saw voters at a 52-53% Dem share. And even that wasn’t the result of Democratic House Districts turning out at higher rates than GOP House Districts. Voters who reside in HD138 (Bohac) and HD126 (Harless) saw their post-7pm voters as majority Democatric, while HD135 (Elkins) was right on the cusp of 50-50 status after 7pm.

I don’t offer the above as anything more than possibly suggestive about the degree of enthusiasm or energy for voting – either in full, or for Tuesday. What’s lacking in this is some historical context about the late voters from 2008 or 2004. I’m not overly fond of relying on a selective data view like this for anything more than it is … pretty interesting.

We’ll see soon enough what it may or may not mean for Tuesday.

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