Senate Primaries: Arizona and Florida

US SenateIn the weeks since the nominating conventions, a lot has happened.  Trump royally blew the immediate post-convention period and re-shuffled his staff.  U.S. athletes, for the most part, had a strong showing at the Olympics.  And many states have held primary elections for state and federal offices.  There are about two more weeks of primaries left.  (Except for Louisiana which does not really have a primary election, and a special primary election for one district in New York, the last primaries will be held on September 13. )  This week, we have the Senate primaries in two states that are seen as potential Senate battlegrounds in November:  Arizona and Florida.

In Arizona, the Democratic candidate — Representative Ann Kirkpatrick — is running unopposed.  The potentially interesting primary is the Republican primary.  Senator John McCain is facing three opponents — one of whom has semi-withdrawn, urging voters to support whichever candidate is most likely to defeat McCain.


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The Trump Conundrum

oopsDonald Trump is an unusual presidential candidate.  By the time a normal politician reaches the level of running for president, they have a history in government.  There are bills that they have sponsored, bills that they have voted for, and things that they have done.  This history allows the opponent to run ads based on this past history.  Some of these ads will contrast the history to the candidate’s current pledges (e.g., this candidate supported policy X; you can’t believe them when they say that they oppose policy X).  Others will use past decisions to say that the candidate has bad judgment or supports bad policies.  For Trump, his history is not one of policies but of business practices.  (We saw some of this in 2012 when Mitt Romney had a much longer business record than political record, but Trump takes it to the next level.)


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DCW 2016 Presidential Forecast History

On Sunday we showed you the DCW Presidential Forecast, with Clinton leading Trump 313-225. But how has Clinton’s lead grown since mid-June? Below, something you will not find anywhere else on the web: A chart over time showing both the summary, and the individual forecasts. Again, the purely poll based forecasts, TPM and FHQ, show the most impressive rise for Clinton, but they will be the quickest to drop if and when the state polls tighten. (Links to all forecasts at bottom)

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Washington Post

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DCW 2016 Presidential Forecast

Welcome to the latest edition of the Democratic Convention Watch 2016 Presidential Forecast, showing Clinton up 313-225. Our last forecast on June 17 showed Clinton up 298-240.

The forecast is based on a average of pundit and poll based forecasts. The map shows the consensus view, the table shows each forecast that is used. The right hand column shows a running total of Electoral Votes. Find the state that crosses 270, and that’s the tipping point state. Right now, it’s Wisconsin,  but with NH now being Dem-Lean to Dem right now, all of the forecasts are showing Clinton with 273+ Electoral Votes Dem Lean or better.

The map below shows the consensus in each state. Clinton was leading 262-191 in the last forecast, but NH and VA moved to DL, with NV moving back to T, giving an 11 EV swing to Clinton.

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A “Rigged” Election

animated flag glitterFor several weeks, Donald Trump has been spouting a lot about how, if he loses, it will because the election was “rigged.”  As discussed further below, in the sense of fraud and phony votes, it is almost impossible to rig an election.  However, as in the Republican primary, to the extent that the election is rigged in the sense of the rules favoring a certain candidate, the rules are almost certainly rigged in favor of Donald Trump.

The first and biggest way that the rules are rigged in favor of Donald Trump is the  electoral college.  As folks may remember from high school history or government class, a vote for a candidate for president is actually a vote for a slate of electors supporting the candidate.  Those electors then vote in December for the candidate on whose slate they ran.  A candidate needs to win 270 of the 538 electors to win.  Each state has a number of electors equivalent to the state’s representation in Congress — it’s House seats plus its Senate seats.  Because every state has two Senate seats,  the electoral college is weighted in favor of small states.  (If you have two House seats, you have twice as many electoral votes as House seats.  If you have fifty House seats, you only have four percent more electoral votes than House seats.)  Of the twenty-one smallest states (those with four or fewer House seats), Republicans have won twelve of the twenty-one states in the past four elections.  Of the nine states that have gone Democratic in one or more of the last four elections, four are considered swing states.


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Primary Lessons from Missouri and Kansas

mo-sealThe primary votes in Missouri and Kansas reflect some realities of grass-roots campaigning and the current divisions in the Republican party.

On the Missouri side, “outsider” candidates won two of the three open Republican state-wide primaries.  In addition, several pro-labor Republican state representatives faced well-funded opponents after helping to defeat “right to work” legislation.  The results in these districts were mixed, but unless Democrats can win a couple more suburban seats, the risk of more anti-labor legislation remains.  In short, the Missouri Republican party (aided by the lack of any limit on donations making it easy for billionaires to run candidates that take extreme positions) is still sprinting toward the hard right.


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Where are the Battlegrounds?

   Party committees — whether it be the Democratic National Committee or your local county or township committee —  serve three basic functions in politics.  First, they try to find good candidates to run for office — preferably candidates that the committee views as having a strong chance at winning in the general election.  This function can become controversial when other folks also want to run and people start complaining about the party trying to rig the race or stack the deck.  Second, the party committees raise money.  Particularly at the national level, where big money is involved, this function sometimes looks unseemly as both parties typically offer access to party leaders to big dollar donors.  Finally, the parties decide what to do with the money they raise.  Some of this money go to basic party building activities, paying for voter databases and committee staff that help all of the candidates.  But, at both the state and national level, there is money to go for staff for field offices in certain states and certain areas of states and to spend on party sponsored ads.  Similarly, the campaign of the presidential campaign also has money for staff and ads.  The question for the party committees and the presidential campaign is where to put the staff and where to buy the ads.  That question turns on conclusions about where the most bang can be gotten for the buck — which states are the battleground states, those with a close battle where the extra resources could potentially swing the election.


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Sleeper Senate Race:Louisiana

Louisiana is one of those states that does things differently than everybody else.  (Louisiana also tends to change the rules every cycle.)  This cycle, like Washington and California, everybody runs in one primary regardless of party.  However, Louisiana differs from Washington and California in two significant ways.  First, unlike Washington and California, where the primary is simply a primary and the top two advance to the general regardless of whether anybody gets a majority of the vote, the Louisiana primary is actually the general election.  Thus, if somebody gets a majority, they win the election.  It is only if nobody gets a majority that the top two advance to a run-off.  Second, because it is actually the general election and not the primary, the first round of the election is on November 8.  Because of these two features, close elections in Louisiana tend to go to the December run-off.  Thus, if the Senate comes down to Louisiana, we may not know who controls the Senate until mid-December.  Because Louisiana will be an open seat, there is a great likelihood that this race will go to a run-off.


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Photo ID and the Courts

Vote!In recent years, the Supreme Court has had its version of an “election rule.”  The essence of this rule is that the Supreme Court does not like last second changes to the election process.  Regardless of whether the change comes from state election authorities changing the state’s procedure or a court decision resolving a challenge to those procedures, the Supreme Court prefers to “freeze” the status quo far enough in advance of the election so that voters know the rules and can take steps to comply with those rules.  Perhaps in response to this implied vague deadline (a little less implied in the case of Texas where the Supreme Court indicated that they would consider intervening in there was not a court decision by the end of July), the last several weeks of have seen court decisions in multiple cases involving multiple states seeking to impose a requirement that voters present photographic ID to vote in-person.


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Sunday with the Senators: Pennsylvania

McGinty_ToomeyThe candidates are Pat Toomey, the incumbent junior Senator vs. Katie McGinty, most recently Chief of Staff for Governor Tom Wolf. In the interest of full disclosure, I know Katie: she lives nearby and we’ve run our dogs together. I don’t know Pat Toomey, although as a constituent, I often call/write his office to complain. Okay, that’s that, now let’s get down to brass tacks.

As I mentioned last Sunday, most people (namely pollsters) see this as a toss-up, but I see Katie winning. If you look at the RCP average, it would look like a toss-up, with the candidates being essentially tied with one point either way, well within the margin of error.  Cook has it as a toss-up, as does Sabato, and I could go on. But they’re wrong. Part of the issue is that the polls have been steadily moving from Pat being up by 7 – 10 points, but the margin keeps shrinking. Part of that was due to the fact that he had a lot of name recognition, and Katie had much less.

Generally, it’s a good thing that people know who you are, but this isn’t working out so well for Pat, who may be known, but has an overall -9 approval rating (30/39) and when asked whether people would be more or less likely to support him if he continued obstructionism related to Merrick Garland, that increased to 23/40 or -17. Franklin and Marshall has McGinty at 25/25, because the electorate is just starting to get to know her.  From that same poll, which is also the most recent, having been run from 7/29 – 8/1, has Clinton at -2, Trump at -29, and their matchup at Clinton 47%, Trump 34% and Gary Johnson 7%.

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