Goobergunch Political Report

31 October 2010

GPR Projection Policy

Goobergunch @ 17:00 PT
Posted in: Election 2010, Meta

The first polls in the country to close do so in exactly two days’ time, so it’s time for the biennial reminder of how we’ll be projecting races on Election Night.

The Goobergunch Political Report (“GPR”) will project a winner in a race when there is clear and convincing evidence that a particular ballot option will be victorious when all the votes are counted. Any and all factors known to GPR may be taken into consideration in making a projection, including but not limited to preliminary returns, prior polling and prognostication, exit polling, and projections made by other organizations.

GPR will not project a winner in a race before the time at which all polls in the region casting votes for that race are scheduled to have closed. GPR reserves the right to determine policy on a race–by–race basis if polls are ordered to remain open past the originally scheduled closing time in a given jurisdiction. Before all polls in the region casting votes for a given race are scheduled to close, the race shall be characterized as “Still Voting” and be colored silver on projection charts. As many television networks refuse to project a winner in a race before all polls in that state are closed, GPR may project winners in Congressional races before television networks do.

When all polls in the region casting votes for that race are closed, if there is no clear and convincing evidence to project a winner, the race shall be characterized as “Too Close To Call” and be colored white on projection charts. GPR does not characterize races as “Too Early To Call”.

Races in which a Democrat is projected to win may be characterized as “DEM Hold” or “DEM Gain” and shall be colored blue on projection charts. Races in which a Republican is projected to win may be characterized as “GOP Hold” or “GOP Gain” and shall be colored red on projection charts. Races in which an independent candidate is projected to win may be characterized as “IND Hold” or “IND Gain” and shall be colored yellow on projection charts. Official characterizations and projection colors for seats projected to be won by other parties may be determined on Election Night.

If it becomes apparent that an additional step (e.g. a runoff election) will be required prior to a final determination of the winner in a given race, the race shall be characterized appropriately (e.g. “Runoff Between Smith (R) and Jones (D)”) and colored black on projection charts. However, if the additional step guarantees victory for a certain party, the characterizations and colors described in the previous paragraph may be made instead. Recounts, legal contests, and other challenges to the validity of the results in a given race are not considered additional steps; such races should generally be characterized as “Too Close To Call”.

For all 2010 Congressional races, the first indication of a projection will appear on the appropriate projection chart for so long as those charts remain visible on the front page of the GPR website. For other 2010 races, a projection may be announced through any and all GPR communications mechanisms.

29 October 2010

Counting the Vote

Goobergunch @ 14:00 PT
Posted in: Election 2010

There’s an interesting story from the Hotline today about how the AP plans on reporting election returns this year:

Starting Tuesday night, the results of statewide races will be reported by giving the percentage of “expected vote.” The votes reported at the state level at any given time will be divided by the estimate of the total votes that will be cast in the state to come up with the percentage of expected votes.

The rationale behind this makes sense—with the rise in early and absentee voting, the proportion of precincts reporting is no longer an accurate estimate of the total vote being cast. However, it’s worth noting that it never has been. Precincts are not of uniform size, and a densely populated inner–city precinct may have over a hundred times as many votes than a nearly empty rural precinct. I’m concerned that this change may make it more difficult for those of us that examine election returns at a more detailed level to accurately track results.

This site will still report election returns in the traditional format of “n% of precincts reporting”, but of course on a general election night I won’t be posting many such returns. Election night coverage will focus on trying to understand the big picture of what’s happening and what the impact on the upcoming Congress and public policy will be. Of course, I’ll also be posting about whatever I find interesting. :)

27 October 2010

A Graphic Clarification: New York

Goobergunch @ 10:30 PT
Posted in: Election 2010, Meta

Just a brief clarifying note on the Senate projection map: The reason there’s a “NY1″ and an “NY3″ seat listed is because both the “Class 1″ Senate seat from New York (currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand) and the “Class 3″ Senate seat from New York (currently held by Chuck Schumer) are up this year. Since Gillibrand’s seat is technically a special election, she’ll be next up for re–election in 2012; meanwhile, Schumer will be up for re–election again with the rest of this year’s Senate class in 2016. There aren’t any other states with two Senate races this year, so I haven’t put labels on the other Class 1 and Class 2 seats that are up this year.

Also, I’ve received feedback that the right–hand sidebar can block the projection graphics on some monitors. I still think it’s useful for navigation at the moment, but I’ll take it down for Election Night when I assume most readers won’t be interested in archive binging.

Waiting for the Vote

Goobergunch @ 02:00 PT
Posted in: Election 2010

With just under a week to go before Election Day, there’s really not much to report. At this point there really won’t be much to analyze until the results start coming in. But with the election so close and with voting already underway in 33 states, it’s high time that Election Day mode get activated. So up at the top of the page are my official Senate and House projections for 2010. I know the House map looks pretty terrible at the moment, but most of the missing borders and such will get filled when the polls actually close—it looks great when all the districts are actually colored in. As for the Senate, the seat ordering is based on a combination of poll closings and apparent competitiveness, with a goal of minimizing the amount of re–ordering that occurs in the mad frenzy of Election Night updates.

By this time next week, expect a lot of blue and red (with a smattering of white) on those graphics.

19 October 2010

Two Weeks Out

Goobergunch @ 15:00 PT
Posted in: Dynamic Race Ratings, Election 2010
Tags: ,

There’s only fourteen days left before the 2010 midterm elections, and we still have very little clarity on what will actually happen on Election Night. That being said, these last few weeks have not been devoid of surprises.


In the Senate forecast, one of the biggest surprises has been the continued volatility of the Alaska race. Joe Miller, the Republican nominee, seems to be doing his best to implode, with past misconduct coming to light and bizarre behavior on the campaign trail. Democrat Scott McAdams has been running a good campaign (and heck, I just like long–shot candidates that get a surprise opportunity to win), and has been polling just slightly behind Miller and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write–in bid. Given that it’s an open question whether the likelihood of Murkowski’s write-in bid isn’t being overstated (the last Senator to be elected via write–in was Strom Thurmond in 1954), at this time I have to consider the race a Toss–Up, with a slight Republican tilt.

The other surprising Toss–Up is West Virginia. Democrat Joe Manchin remains one of the few popular governors in the country. But support for the national Republican Party has made John Raese competitive. While this race has been tilting back towards Manchin in the last few ways, it could certainly go either way.

The three other Toss–Ups—Illinois, Nevada, and Colorado—have been too close to call for a while now, and it’s really hard to detect a distinct advantage for any candidate in these races. In previous Senate elections, all of the close races have tended to break the same way, but any hints at this kind of lean probably won’t be noticeable until the election is upon us.

Finally, it’s worth discussing the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin races. In the former, I had written Democrat Joe Sestak’s candidacy off a while ago, but he seems to be making a late comeback—much as he did in the primary. While Republican Pat Toomey is still favored, Sestak is a lot closer than I had thought he’d be at this point. In the latter, Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is behind by pretty much every measurement, despite the low profile of his opponent.

House of Representatives

I’m hesitant to express any predictions as to the fate of the House due to the sheer volatility of the environment this year. I can come up with reasonable scenarios for the Democrats losing anywhere from 25 to 70 seats. (The picture is clearer when I turn the board over, with 4 seats that are more likely than not to be Republican losses and an additional 2 or 3 that are still pick–up opportunities.) What I can do, though, is generate a rough ranking of House seats by likelihood for a switch in party control. While this listing should (especially for Democratic seats at risk) be viewed as more of a rough guide than a strict ordering, I believe it still provides useful guidance for how the House is likely to look next year. Like all of my predictions, it is subject to change at any time before Election Day.

3 October 2010

The New Number 60

Goobergunch @ 12:45 PT
Posted in: Election 2010

There’s been a lot of chatter, both in liberal blog circles and on Capitol Hill itself, about changing the Senate’s filibuster rule so that legislation no longer needs 60 votes to advance. In the current Senate, this has meant finding one Republican Senator to vote with the Democrats—something that has often been nearly impossible to do. But with the Republicans poised to gain a number of Senate seats in the fall, who would the Democrats have to convince to vote with them if the 60–vote requirement stays in place?

While this answer would obviously vary from bill to bill, a general answer can be found by looking at the voting records of each Senator. The Common Space DW–NOMINATE scores for current Senators, as well as Senate candidates that are current or former members of Congress, provide a good estimate of ideology in voting patterns for this purpose. Using the current Senate prediction (which has the Republicans gaining 6 Senate seats) with the most recent DW–NOMINATE scores for each predicted member of the 112th Senate, we get the following:

49      Webb            -0.207
50      Nelson (FL)     -0.192
51	McCaskill	-0.182
52	Carper		-0.179
53	Nelson (NE)	-0.028
54	Snowe		 0.094
55	Collins		 0.110
56	Brown (MA)	 0.178
57	Cochran		 0.291
58	Lugar		 0.326
59	Grassley	 0.334
60	Alexander	 0.343
61	Coats		 0.362
62	Hutchison	 0.364
63	McCain		 0.378

While a number of predicted future Senators do not have DW–NOMINATE scores, it’s likely that a large number of them (due to Tea Party influence) will be conservative enough that it won’t matter for this purpose. I do wonder whether Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) or John Hoeven (R-ND) could qualify, though.

If Mark Kirk (R) defeats Alexi Giannoulias (D) in the Illinois Senate race, which is currently the closest Senate race in the country by my estimation, he’d show up as No. 56 on the list, between Scott Brown and Thad Cochran, leaving Lamar Alexander’s position as No. 60 unchanged.

It’s hard to see what major policy items can pass the Senate that pleases Senators as conservative as Hutchison, Grassley, and Cochran while not losing the support of Democrats. Almost certainly, any such bills would be a great disappointment to Obama’s more liberal supporters.

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