Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Unexpected Voter Turnout Patterns

We wish you the best for the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays. The PRIsm Political Updates will return Monday, Nov. 26.

The official state participation and candidate preference statistics are being released throughout the nation, and many of the numbers are quite surprising. While turnout was down nationally, it was up in most of the battleground states and, despite Pres. Barack Obama’s victory, it may be erroneous to assume that the turnout pattern completely favored him.

While it is clear the president obviously benefited from the voting preferences of the aggregate group of people who cast ballots during the election process, it is interesting to note that he was only able to return 91.5 percent of the total vote he received in 2008. In contrast, losing national Republican nominee Mitt Romney retained 99.4 percent of John McCain’s 2008 vote. Obviously Romney needed to do better than to simply equal McCain’s vote, but it is significant that Obama’s share of the vote declined by almost a full 10 percent from what he obtained four years ago, especially when understanding that the Obama campaign clearly had the superior grassroots organization.

Nationally, and rather astonishingly from what was widely forecast before the election, overall voter turnout was down six million votes from the number cast in 2008, or a fall-off of 4.7 percent. It appears that virtually all of the drop-off came from the Obama coalition, as the president’s vote receded by almost that same amount as did the national turnout (voter participation reduction: 6,148,768 individuals; Obama drop: 5,917,631 votes).

The four core states also recorded interesting turnout patterns. Of the quartet of places that Romney needed to convert if he were to unseat the president, it was North Carolina — the only state in this group that he did carry — that had the highest participation rate increase from 2008. North Carolina voter turnout was up 4.5 percent in comparison to their aggregate number of voters from four years ago. Virginia and Florida, two of the three core states that remained with the president, also saw increased participation. Virginia was up 3.5 percent; Florida 1.0 percent.

Ohio, often believed to be the most important state in the presidential contest because it was viewed to be a national bellwether, surprisingly recorded a lower turnout this year than during the previous Obama victory campaign. Ohio turnout was down a rather substantial 5.9 percent, or greater than 336,000 participants from 2008.

Of those seven states commonly viewed to be in the secondary target group — at least one of which Romney would have had to have carried to be successful, more if he failed to carry all of the core states — four saw increased participation, and three declined. The states producing a greater number of voters were in the Midwest (Wisconsin, up 2.4 percent; Iowa, increasing 1.9 percent) and West (fast-growing Nevada adding 4.5 percent; Colorado, up 3.1 percent).

The three eastern and Mid-Atlantic states all recorded a smaller voter participation rate. Pennsylvania, always considered a swing state and a place that attracts a great deal of campaign attention, saw its voter turnout rate fall 6.1 percent; Michigan, the only state in the Union that actually lost population in the preceding decade, dropped 5.7 percent; and New Hampshire returned almost the same number of voters, coming in just 5,091 ballots under their 2008 total.

It appears the biggest voter drop-off occurred in some of the nation’s largest states, those that are most Democratic and among the president’s strongest places. His home state of Illinois, for example, saw more than 431,000, or 7.8 percent, fewer people vote this year than when compared to their favorite son’s first election in 2008. New York had the largest drop-off, a stunning 19.8 percent below its participation level of four years ago. California, the nation’s largest state, was off 12.5 percent. But, lower turnout rates were not confined only to the large Democratic states. Texas, the biggest and most loyal Republican entity, also saw a reduction in turnout. Over 112,000 fewer voters went to the polls in 2012 when compared to 2008.

More analysis will be completed when additional data is available, but these statewide turnout numbers may have produced more questions about the nation’s voting patterns than answers.

GOP Senate Momentum Has Stalled

The Indiana Democratic Senate campaign of Rep. Joe Donnelly released its internal Global Strategy Group poll (Oct. 28-30; 600 likely Indiana voters) that posts their man to a 43-36-9 percent advantage over Republican Richard Mourdock. The latter number is going to Libertarian Party candidate Andrew Horning. Mourdock countered by making his internal data public, a poll that claims his deficit is only one point. But even this latter margin is a reduction in support for the reeling Republican as a rape-related abortion comment in the final candidates’ debate could prove to be the deciding factor.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Mike Pence probably confirms Donnelly’s lead with his latest actions. Though releasing positive numbers for his own campaign and that of the presidential contest, the Pence team remained mum on the Senate race, leading to speculation that their internal data also shows Donnelly leading.

Taking Indiana would be a huge boon to the Democrats and will go a long way toward achieving their goal of holding the Senate majority.

In two western states, however, the GOP trend may be improving.

The National Mining Association, through their continuing Count on Coal campaign, launched an attack against Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. The group goes so far as to say that Tester has joined Pres. Barack Obama’s “war on coal” for not supporting the coalition efforts and for his backing of federal regulations that have largely undermined the state’s coal production operations. Along with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Tester has refused to sign onto the Montana coal petition that pledges to protect the industry. Despite being a place of just under one million inhabitants, Montana ranks fifth in the nation in coal production, producing slightly under 45 million tons in its apex year of 2010.

Republican Denny Rehberg signed the pledge, as have most other candidates throughout the state, and the coal group is trying to make this issue the deciding factor of the campaign. In a race that has polled even for months, one coalition group heavily promoting a critical issue position could have a major effect. Energy issues are making an impact in races across the country, especially in the West.

Conflicting polls are now coming from New Mexico. Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee, released his internal GBA Strategy numbers (Oct. 27-29; 600 likely New Mexico voters) that again places him 10 points ahead of former Republican congresswoman Heather Wilson. But, earlier this week, Wilson countered with her own Public Opinion Strategies survey (Oct. 21-22; 500 likely New Mexico voters) that showed her topping Heinrich, 44-43 percent in this case, for the first time in the campaign.

Heinrich’s numbers have held for most of the election cycle, and he has been in stronger position than one would have guessed running against a Republican former representative who proved she could win repeatedly in Democratic regions. If her earlier POS data is correct, it might signal that her campaign could be peaking at the right time and become the Republican sleeper race that many people suggested it might be earlier in the year.

Overall, however, the Democrats look to be in the more favorable position than Republicans in Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The GOP is likely to convert Nebraska, and is trending more positively in North Dakota. With the likely loss of the Maine seat to Independent Angus King, the Republicans could be trading two of their current seats for two others, but this still leaves them four short of majority status.

If Indiana and Montana cancel each other from a party division perspective, and Elizabeth Warren unseats Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the Democrats could actually end the night breaking even, or losing fewer than the four seats than the GOP needs to snatch away the majority. Democrats are protecting 23 seats in this cycle as compared to the Republicans’ 10, thus giving the GOP many offensive opportunities. But their early positive momentum has definitely stalled.

Little Change in Two Years

Less than one week before Election Day 2012, we know little more about the projected outcome than we did when the campaigns began in earnest almost two years ago. At that time there was uncertainty about the presidential election. A feeling persisted that Pres. Barack Obama could certainly win re-election, but enough vulnerability existed that a strong challenger could deny him a second term.

With majority Democrats having to protect 23 of the 33 in-cycle contests, control of the Senate appeared up for grabs. With the 2010 state legislative elections swinging hard toward the Republicans, thus giving them clear control of the redistricting process, it became a foregone conclusion that the House GOP majority would be sustained in a post-reapportionment election year with newly drawn congressional district boundaries.

Two years later and six days away from the people’s decision, we still have no counter-arguments to any of these observations.

According to all of the latest national polls, the presidential race is a virtual tie. Seven national pollsters released popular vote surveys yesterday and the biggest spread among the group was Rasmussen Reports producing a two-point lead for Republican Mitt Romney. Five of the polls were showing one-point margins either way, and one, Public Policy Polling for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), showed a 49-49 percent tie. It simply doesn’t get any closer.

Turning to the states, we find equally close numbers though the Romney position has improved in many key electoral vote havens. Think of the model that stated the Republican needed to convert Indiana, the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska (because the state awards it electoral votes individually for the candidate carrying each congressional district), Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and one other Obama state larger than Vermont or Delaware. Today, Romney looks solid in Indiana and NE-2, and good in Florida and North Carolina, while improving to even footing in Virginia. But this standing, while much better than his Republican predecessor’s of four years ago, does not clinch victory.

The next tier becomes determining. The Romney trends in Ohio are improving, and at least one pollster, Rasmussen Reports, actually has the challenger forging ahead in the Buckeye State by the slimmest of margins. All other survey research firms show either a tie or a slight Obama lead. Trends seem to be moving Romney’s way in Colorado. Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire are all still very much in play, and are virtually deadlocked. Obama has been recently drawing stronger numbers in Nevada. Movement could still occur in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and possibly even Oregon, but it is likely that these states are only flirting with the Republicans and will return to the Democratic fold on Election Day.

Though there are still ways for Romney to win nationally without carrying Ohio, assuming the rest of our analysis rings true, he likely won’t unseat the president without winning what is becoming the deciding state. It is very likely that the way Ohio eventually votes will determine who remains or becomes president. Amazingly, the election is still simply too close to call.

The Senate remains just as tight, though Democrats are in good position to hold at least a bare majority. There are still 14 Senate races projected to be within the margin of error, so anything can still happen. The outcome of the presidential race will likely help decide all of these critically important, and virtually dead even contests.

There are ominous signs on the near horizon for the president, however. As an incumbent, going into an election tied rarely leads to victory. The Obama campaign confirms Romney’s momentum by consistently promoting a negative message. Additionally, aggregate estimates from all of the early voting states suggest that the Democrats are more than 20 percent behind their 2008 pace of returning the ballots to the election officials. They are still responding in greater numbers than Republicans, but the Democratic margin is certainly down. And, finally, we are all basing our predictions on polls showing a zero to two-point difference when their own error factor is 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

It’s clear this election will be very close and it’s possible we could be headed to political overtime, meaning absentee ballot counting could again make the difference, just as it did in 2000.

House: IE Money Flying

The American left and right, including their respective major party organizations, are again spending abundantly in certain House races as we enter the final week of the campaign. In fact, according to new Federal Election Commission independent expenditure (IE) filings just made public, the two sides (House party organizations coupled with outside group spending) have combined to spend $26.4 million during just the Oct. 27-29 period. Of this total, Republican/conservative groups have spent a tick under $14 million, while the Democrats and liberal organizations have spent $12.5 million. Remember, all of these expenditures cover only a three-day period.

The top two races receiving monetary attention in this critical time frame are in New Hampshire, where Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1-R) is defending the seat he won from ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) in 2010. In just the past three days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has laid down $1.037 million on Shea-Porter’s behalf, mostly for media expenditures on negative ads against Rep. Guinta. Countering that number is the American Action Network, which dropped $637,000 to fund either positive Guinta or negative Shea-Porter ads.

The top Republican recipient is Illinois Rep. Judy Biggert who is having a difficult time in a radically redistricted seat that Democratic leaders designed to defeat her. She opposes former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his 14th District seat in 2010. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent $837,000 on Biggert’s behalf, while the DCCC countered with $743,000 to help Foster.

At least one other incumbent race is seeing combined party and group spending exceed seven figures for this short period. Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) has witnessed the NRCC and the American Action Network (AAN) combine to spend more than $1 million in his heavily Democratic district. Another such CD is the open IL-13 seat that Rep. Tim Johnson (R) is vacating. Republicans and the AAN dropped more than $850,000 here for Rodney Davis as compared to the DCCC’s $329,000 to help their nominee, Dr. David Gill.

The AAN spent more than $500,000 apiece in California (Rep. Jeff Denham, R-CA-10) and Nevada (Rep. Joe Heck, R-NV-3), in addition to the Guinta and Cravaack races, while the House Majority Fund dropped major six-figure expenditures to help New York Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) hold his Long Island CD and over $400,000 to help Connecticut Democrat Elizabeth Esty fend off a strong challenge from Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback in the seat that Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is vacating to run for the Senate.

A couple of surprise protects are popping up late for both sides. Democrats, particularly when seeing almost $1 million go toward independent expenditures in Michigan’s 1st CD that contains the state’s Upper Peninsula, believe they have a strong chance to unseat freshman Rep. Dan Benishek. Another strong sleeper campaign might be found in the Orlando area, as the DCCC is dropping more than $427,000 in order to help elect former police chief Val Demings over freshman Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) in Florida.

Democrats are surprisingly spending copiously in Arizona and New York to fend off what they see are serious threats to freshman Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) and two-term Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-21).

Republicans believe they have a great closing shot to maintain the new 1st District in Arizona, and to defeating Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) who won a brutal primary battle against fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), only to find himself in a relatively strong Republican seat.

No surprise that the IL-17 contest between freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) and local East Moline official Cheri Bustos (D) is hotly contested, as is the inter-party pairing in Ohio between Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16). Both of these campaigns are considered toss-ups.

Of the top 10 races where Democrats are spending, three are to protect incumbents. On the Republican board, five of their top 10 expenditure races are for individuals already serving in the House.

Senate Balance of Power is Murky

The nation’s presidential choice is not the only political decision still undetermined at this late date. It now appears that as many as 13 US Senate races are either in the toss-up category or on their way to being categorized as such. In addition to the mainstay toss-up campaigns, we find that the Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Indiana, Florida and Ohio races are not yet put to bed, either.

Swings and shifts in places like North Dakota, Arizona, Connecticut and Pennsylvania suggests that once perceived clear-cut trends in those places are now less certain.

With the presidential race likely coming down to the votes from a state or two, the Senate majority could as well. The Republicans need a net gain of four states to secure a bare minimum 51-seat majority, while the Democrats need to hold their losses to three in order to maintain chamber control.

A probable Republican loss in Maine and possibly failing to retain Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts means the GOP would have to convert six Democratic seats. Since former Sen. Bob Kerrey does not appear particularly competitive in Nebraska, the real majority number recedes to five. Converting the open Democratic seat in North Dakota is now considered a must-win situation. And, taking at least two of the three pure toss-up campaigns in Virginia, Montana, and Wisconsin now becomes a requirement. Additionally, the Republicans would still have to win at least one long-shot campaign, from a state such as Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Connecticut, and possibly Pennsylvania. The long-term toss-up seat in Missouri appears to be breaking Sen. Claire McCaskill’s way.

But all of the aforementioned presumes the Republicans hold their own seats in Arizona, Indiana and Nevada, none of which are tightly secured at this writing.

Early in the cycle, with the Democrats having to protect 23 seats as compared to the Republicans’ 10, it was assumed that the odds favored forging a new Republican majority. Now, there are fewer people expressing such a sentiment. If Pres. Obama and the Democrats catch a wave going into the election’s final days, Republicans losing seats must also be considered within the realm of possibility.

So, as Election Day draws nearer, the Senate campaign picture is appearing more cloudy.