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Ted Cruz and the Hispanic Vote: Harris County edition

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 page - Google Earth

And, secondly, the R-Cruz findings ...

full page - Google 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)

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.


2012 Election Mapping: METRO GMP Referendum

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

full page - Google Earth

The binary views are availalbe here if desired: full page - Google 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

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 page - Google Earth

The binary views are availalbe here if desired: full page - Google 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

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)

Romney v Obama, the conclusion in Harris County ...

full page - Google 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)

Cruz vs Sadler, in technicolor ...

full page - Google Earth

The results in this race were:

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


2012 Election Mapping: Harris County Sheriff

Guthrie vs Garcia, all mapped out ...

full page - Google 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

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

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.

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