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Posts tagged ‘2014 Elections’

When politics confuses you, remember this: it’s mostly about voting by party

Politics can often be confusing, but if you dig just below the surface, it doesn’t have to be. Consider this. Pew recently did a study on Presidential candidate traits, and they found some things you’d expect: military experience, Governor, business background, white male, etc, etc. (Although “woman” did appear on the list, which is good and all.) The problem is, there’s often a disconnect between what people say they want and what they actually want — you find this in hiring processes too — which is perhaps best explained in this anecdote:

In early 2007 voters placed military experience at the top of their list of attributes they said would make them more likely to vote for a candidate. That didn’t help veteran John McCain. Tea Party voters find military service particularly appealing. Seventy-one percent say it would increase the likelihood they would vote for a candidate. Yet Tea Party conservatives were some of McCain’s harshest critics. A version of the same was true for business experience and support for Mitt Romney among Tea Party members. Rep. Paul Ryan is the only possible presidential candidate who has “many years of experience” in Washington—precisely the kind of attribute Tea Party voters dislike so much—and yet, as a Tea Party favorite, he would almost certainly be forgiven for it.

Then there’s this: everyone seems to hate Congress right now, but there are 405 House races this November where the leader seems more than 90 percent likely to win. In other words, people hate incumbents, yet mostly they’ll cruise to victory. Huh? Why?

The answer is pretty simple: most people vote simply by party orientation. Some political scientists think it makes up 85 percent of the decision-making process, if not more. (When I was first learning about politics and all that, my dad used to come home on Election Day and once in a while tell me, “I just voted down the same side/color,” so clearly this is a real thing.) We are a polarized nation, but we stick to our sides for the most part. This is why it’s hard to envision a GOP candidate winning the White House in 2016: if all states go the way they should, it’s a nearly impossible map for the Republicans.

So just remember: politics can be confusing as hell at times, but at the end of the day, it all goes back to the same principles that helped develop humanity — in-groups and out-groups.

The future of politics (are you listening, Rand Paul?) could be addressable advertising

It seems like people have been discussing this idea of “what Big Data can really do” for years without tremendously tangible day-to-day results (possibly because of this and this). Still, it seems logical that as SmartPhones become the primary gadget of a new global generation, a world can exist where you can be strolling in the supermarket and your phone pings you: Aisle 6. Whole wheat bread. I feel like that could happen. In 1990, that seemed like some sci-fi stuff. Now, it feels like it’s maybe 4-5 years off, maybe 7-8 for the general public (but in four years, there’s gotta be a way to turn this stuff on for your phone if you read Wired enough, or something).

Politics and data have had an interesting relationship for decades, and a super interesting relationship for the past six years: notably, most people chock up the Obama ’08 win to better data management on the ground by the Democrats (social, micro-targeting, etc.) and that’s a trend line that still resonates today. Well, now we’ve got something interesting going on with the television: by 2016 (Presidential year!), some believe that 25-30 percent of set-top boxes in American homes will be set up for “addressable advertising.” What the eff is that? Here’s NPR to explain:

That’s a huge change, and I’ll tell you where it’s going. We’re moving to something called “addressable advertising,” and before long what we’re going to be able to do — we’re able to do it now in about 10% of homes — is that set-top box, instead of just giving that data about what is happening on that remote control of yours, we’ll be able to drop in different advertisements to that box. Let’s say you have Grey’s Anatomy on television and there’s a commercial break. In house No. 1 on your block, we’ve identified a persuadable women voter. In house No. 2, right next door, we’ve identified a woman who’s an unmarried woman who we know is with us but is unlikely to turn out because we have a real problem getting unmarried women out, but they’re ours by 35 points when we get ‘em out. So that’s a get-out-the-vote target.

In house No. 3, we have a Republican voter that we really don’t want to spend money on or motivate. So into House 1, where that persuasion target lives, we can drop a persuasion ad, that will appear at exactly the same moment in the commercial break of Grey’s Anatomy as in House No. 2, the get-out-the-vote target is getting a different ad that’s motivating her to actually turn out, and in house No. 3, where the Republican voter lives, we don’t place an ad at all.

First off, the fact that this speaker used Grey’s as the reference point is a bit much, but let’s gloss that over. This is interesting. People are obsessed with television as “the medium” to reach people — see here and here. If television sets could give you tangible data that could be connected back to the viewers in those homes, this is obviously huge for multiple walks of life: politics being one, but simple marketing/advertising being another. Just like social semi-destroyed the idea of “the funnel,” so too could tangible, targeted advertising — ads varying by living room based on effectiveness of message, in other words — change marketing again (and politics). Why would you need 1,000 people hitting doors and lawns if you can get right into a family during their nightly together time? Now, a lot of this depends on how effective the message/storytelling is — that’s the part of “marketing/advertising/even politics” that people often forget about – but it’s still an interesting potential development.

This headline might say it all: “Data meets TV, and they get along.”

There’s a long way to go in terms of making this all effective enough that other aspects of these worlds start to shift, but you get the sense that it’s inching closer. By the 2020 Presidential election (six years), this could almost be normative.

Let’s hold off on writing Kay Hagan’s political obituary until after May 6, alright?

Here’s the basic math on the 2014 Senate elections: Republicans need a net gain of six to take control of the upper chamber. Tim Johnson (a Democrat) from South Dakota is out, and his seat will almost assuredly flip. That takes the number down to five needed, net-gain wise. There are various theories on who the most in-trouble Democrats are — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is often near the top of these lists, and we’ve talked about Pryor vs. Cotton in Arkansas — and in all this, one name you hear a lot is Kay Hagan (North Carolina), who beat Elizabeth Dole back in 2008 (the first Obama win) but now is dealing with the reality of a state that’s becoming more Republican (I’d link to a few things here, but politically, the blue — > red shift of NC has been detailed almost everywhere).

Conventional wisdom says Hagan is doomed, but that might be entirely incorrect. The Republican primary is on May 6 (a week from this Tuesday). Thom Tillis has a 3-to-1 fundraising edge over other GOP candidates, so presumably he’s going to emerge as the challenger to Hagan. He’s tied to the Koch Brothers and “dark money,” which should terrify people. Problem is, even with all his money flowing in, Tillis can’t separate from the pack: look at these aggregate numbers. In many ways, he’s running about even with “Undecided,” which doesn’t seem to be the safest place. If he can’t clear the majority, there’s a second run-off in mid-July, which would mean the state GOP would need to spend another two months battling each other as opposed to targeting Hagan. That’s an advantage for Hagan. Another advantage? If Greg Brannon — the Tea Party candidate in the primaries — manages to break through into the general election. Hagan is running at 42-40 (her advantage) vs. Tillis right now, a gap that would increase if he needs to spend an additional 60 days trying to fend off the Tea Party. The numbers are relatively similar vs. Brannon.

2014 is going to be a weird mid-term in historical context: anti-incumbent attitudes are at a record high, but not a ton of seats are likely to actually flip. (I could be massively wrong about that.) Regardless of what happens, though, the time for Kay Hagan’s professional obituary has not dawned yet.

How about Brian Sandoval as a 2016 political force, either against Harry Reid or in a dark-horse run at the Presidency?

I initially wanted to write a post about Gary Herbert, the Governor of Utah — by some measures, he’s the most popular Governor in America. Problem is, he’s a Republican, and Utah is a pretty red state — obviously it went big for Romney in 2012, as he has some roots there (72.6%), but it also went big for McCain in 2008 (62%) and Bush in 2004 (71.5%) — so the popularity aspect may be a bit skewed, for sure. There’s another popular Governor in the American West of interest, though: Brian Sandoval, the current Governor of Nevada. He’s only 50, he’s the first Hispanic elected state-wide in Nevada basically ever, and he’s fairly popular: no one is expected to essentially run against him this year. His approval ratings are in the 60s on average, and this is in a state trending purple/blue: Obama won 52 percent in Nevada in 2012. Sandoval won’t even be 55 in 2016 — and he can’t run for Governor again after 2018, per term limits. So what’s his plan?

Most people think he’s headed straight at Harry Reid’s Senate seat, and that seems the most likely: nationally, his profile can’t possibly be that large, especially in the I-95 money corridor. That said, the favorite for the 2016 GOP Convention is Las Vegas, and if Chris Christie is out, Jeb Bush is out, and (perhaps most importantly) Marco Rubio is out (since Sandoval and Rubio would have similar national narratives), maybe there’s a spot for Sandoval. After all, there’s been a big theme around the Republican party across the past few years of “changing the culture” and “pushing the leadership of tomorrow out there now” — running a 52-year old Hispanic who remains popular in a state becoming more and more Democratic could be a good story to roll out there. (It could also massively backfire, especially against Hilary Clinton, who would wake up on Election Day with a massive lead already given the current layout of the Electoral College.)

Another problem: he’s fiscally conservative but socially moderate, and he … ahem … leans pro-choice. His voting record overall leans liberal. (Again, this might be exactly what the GOP needs.)

He’s also not the most charismatic public speaker, as you can see a little in this clip:

A national run? Doubtful. A major U.S. Senate campaign vs. the face of the Senate Democrats for the past decade? Quite possibly. But never discount anything in politics; if Obama 2008 taught us anything, sometimes people go when they think they’re ready — and it ends up working out.

Political trend line: young white millennials are basically libertarians. Can they save the GOP?

The electoral map isn’t very favorable to the GOP, and their strategy/culture isn’t either, and while they may do OK in the midterms — midterms typically favor the non-Presidential party anyway — their 2016 prospects look dim at present. But ah ha! Just like the conventional narratives of “future voters we need to sway” has included “minorities” and “Hispanics” and “spiritual but not religious,” there’s a new group now too: young white millennials who are essentially libertarians. Could they save the GOP’s national hopes? After all, if young liberals truly own the future of electoral politics, then the GOP needs to do something to adapt, right? Cue Salon:

Frank Luntz is probably studying all of these people right now, because this is your future Republican Party base! The idea horrifies many contemporary movement conservatives — this generation has absolutely no interest in your Tough, Muscular Foreign Policy, sorry Bill Kristol — but the Kochs of the world will be fine. Millennials aren’t even much more liberal than older votes on gun control and abortion. That’s like half the GOP platform, right? They’ll barely have to change a word.

(*Laugh track*) But seriously, this is interesting. There seems to be no path to 270 for a 2016 Republican. But what if Rand Paul, off the 2014 CPAC straw poll win, was the guy? Could that capture the hearts and minds of young libertarians living in their childhood bedroom since their college graduation of 2011? Mayhaps. Trend lines are indeed developing.

2014 Elections Trend: Anti-incumbent attitudes are near a record high, but there’s very few toss-up races. Why?


Check out the chart above and some of the charts herein, and you could argue that the 2014 midterms have the highest anti-incumbent polling stance in about 22-24 years — seems like 68 percent of those polled are saying they want to “look around” at other candidates (f*ck, could you imagine if surveys about dating were phrased this way?) and 38 percent are saying “no” to their local candidate being re-elected (the latter data is from a poll this past fall).

But here’s where it gets confusing: people seem to want their elected official kaput, but the 2014 electoral picture doesn’t seem to have many toss-up races. Based on what political report you read, it’s somewhere between 28 and 44 on the House side; most believe that 350-390 seats are “safe” or “solid for X-party.” Cue the peanut gallery: Booooooring. Hopefully some of the Senate races will be more intriguing.

Alright, so now we have a little problem on our hands: the data says we’re gonna punt everyone out of office — like 1992, when 43 incumbents lost, or 2010, when 58 did — but there’s only 30 toss-up elections. So what’s going on?

1. Survey data is sometimes meaningless: In 1992, Pew Research data showed that less than half of those polled were in the above “looking around” category. 43 incumbents nonetheless lost. In 2010, 55 percent of those polled said they wanted their representative to keep his/her office. 58 incumbents lost; Obama called it “a shellacking” and Larry Sabato declared “his legislative Presidency is now over” (he had been President officially for about 18 months). Sometimes surveys just aren’t right.

2. We’re partisan as hell: This might be one of the bigger partisan divides in American history that we’re going through right now. You might hate your rep for X/Y-thing he/she did, but if he/she is GOP, you damn sure don’t want a Democratic in there, because goddamn, that boy be socialist! Or something like that. We’re divided enough that voting along the party/color line is a standard thing; my dad used to do that and feel guilty for not being diverse enough. I doubt people have that consideration nowadays.

3. Voting out requires action: It’s possible that people are resigned to the idea that Congress doesn’t do anything and it’s all headed in the wrong direction, in which case mobilizing people to the polls to oust an incumbent is a bit of an uphill battle.

4. Fenno’s Paradox: You bitch and bitch about Congress as a whole, but at the end of the day, you really do love your own Congressman/woman, so … eh … let’s give him/her two more years.

There’s probably other reasons I’m missing, but it’s an interesting overall picture. The cool thing is that there are some solid primary storylines on the 2014 front, such as Niger Innis in Nevada, etc. Overall, though, it doesn’t seem like Election Night 2014 will see a ton of shifts.

Does Cory Gardner running for Senate in Colorado mean the Tea Party is fading and the GOP is poised for a renaissance?

Cory Gardner is considered a rising star in the GOP, and a few days ago, he announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate at a lumber yard. He’ll challenge Mark Udall, who has been a Senator since 2009 (but is the son of Morris Udall, of Arizona political fame). Some people call Gardner entering this race “a game changer” for the national picture in the 2014 elections. Here’s one reason why:

But perhaps more significant, it’s proof Republicans are reasserting control over the chaotic primaries that have been the party’s Achilles heel in recent years.

At the same time as Gardner entered the race, two others who had been running, Ken Buck and Amy Stephens, indicated they would drop out of it. Buck, a hard-core social conservative, was previously seen as the frontrunner, but now says he will run for Gardner’s seat in Congress instead. Stephens announced Thursday she was dropping out and endorsing Gardner. Though a state senator named Owen Hill remains in the primary, Republicans appear to have made a backroom deal to virtually clear the field for Gardner.

That’s the kind of backroom deal has repeatedly eluded the GOP since 2010, when the Tea Party revolted at party leaders’ attempts to handpick the most electable candidate for the general election.

The GOP still has a lot of problems nationally — for example, their semantics around “culture” and their limited options on the Electoral College map — but organizing in such a way where their primaries aren’t fiercely contested and the guy/girl with the best chance to win can get through without dropping a ton of money and having every “not-conservative-enough” position attacked? Well, that’s a good start at the very least.

The Udall side is already characterizing Gardner as an extremist, saying they swapped one Tea Partier (Buck) for another. Gardner does seem to go a little heavy on the anti-Obamacare side, telling people that it’s “destroying this country” and making his fame on moments like this:

Interestingly, the deal that led to Gardner running began at a Nationals game this past summer:

In June, Mr. Gardner was at a baseball game in Washington, D.C., when he bumped into Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who asked him for ideas on who the GOP should run for Senate in his home state. Mr. Collins joked about Mr. Gardner running himself.

Midterm elections are traditionally pretty hard for the incumbent President’s party; they are “new wave/new blood” elections for a lot of voters. In Colorado, that’s 100 percent the case — when it appeared to be Udall vs. Buck/Stephens, he was only leading each of them by two percentage points. Polls in the state show that only 37 percent view him favorably; 52 percent believe someone else should have a chance to run. Now, that’s Gardner.

Gardner has three kids — 8, 6, and 3 — so he can play the all-American family angle and talk of the future. Here’s how he started to hit Udall at his lumber yard rally:

“Mark Udall broke his promise to the American people, to the people of Colorado, and to you. He has stood in the way of job creation by failing to get government out of the way,” Gardner said. “And failed to stand up to Harry Reid. He has voted to increase taxes, infringe on the 2nd Amendment, to cut Seniors and Medicare Advantage. He cut military pensions and then had the audacity to decry the very cuts he voted for.”

Should be an interesting race to follow; if Gardner unseats Udall, that’s big. Senate control is essentially at a tipping point. The GOP owning the Senate from ’14 to ’16 would make the last two years of Obama even more of a lame duck than it seems it will be now, what with the influx of Hilary magazine covers already.


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