Sunday, May 24, 2009

Massachusetts Gubenatorial race - 2010

As promised, the Prof. is going to take a very early stab at the 2010 Massachusetts race for governor, a mere 17 months and 8 days away...

The Players (can't tell the players without a scorecard!)

Deval Patrick - incumbent Governor (Democrat)

Patrick who easily won election in 2006 is publicly running for reelection after a decidedly mixed first term. After some early mishaps regarding cars and draperies, Patrick has seen a number of his initiatives stalled by a recalcitrant legislature which in reality is more powerful than the governor in Massachusetts.

There continues to be speculation that Patrick is not going to stand for reelection in the face of a fiscal crisis, poor relations with the state legislature, mediocre public approval, and the possibility of a Potomac River view working for the Obama Administration. I place the odds at about 60/40 that he does run, but the Prof. would place little money on that bet.

If he does not run, this opens up a wide-open Democratic Primary with Lt. Governor Timothy Murray being the early favorite.


  • Strong support from liberals would make him difficult to beat in a primary election.
  • Great campaigner, many (including the Prof.) did not see him becoming the phenom that he did in 2006.
  • The Power of incumbency - incumbent governors rarely lose reelection unless they have really fouled things up.
  • Being a Democrat in Massachusetts! This gives him about a 40 to 45% base vote to start with. The weakness of the Republican brand here would make it very difficult to take out even given his current problems.
  • Patrick is attempting to position himself as an outsider doing battle with an out of touch legislature (note his public pronouncement to veto the sales tax increase) - we shall see if this works.


  • The current economic malaise. Although he is not responsible, he may get blamed by voters wanting some change at the top. The Massachusetts fiscal crisis may produce an anti-incumbent voter surge in 2010.
  • Possible perception that he really does not want to be governor anymore and is using it for a stepping stone to higher office.

Tim Cahill - Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Democrat)

The current State Treasurer (you may remember the Tim for Treasurer ads from a few years back) seems to be weighing a primary challenge. I think he will hold off for a bit as unseating an incumbent governor is never easy (although Dukakis did this in 1982 to Ed King) until he is sure that Patrick is politically wounded enough to be vulnerable in a primary challenge. He has the Treasurer's position as long as he wants to keep it and a failed run for governor may jeopardize that.


  • Ability to raise money and generally viewed positively.
  • May be seen as the anti-Patrick and able to pick up independent voters in the Democratic primary.


  • Relatively low name recognition.
  • Moderate-conservative Democrat, but Democratic primary voters skew quite liberal.

Charlie Baker - CEO of Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care (Republican)

Probably the best bet that the moribund Massachusetts Republicans have. Baker served in both the Weld and Celluci administrations and generally receive high marks as a cabinety secretary. Lately, he has been credited with helping Harvard-Pilgrim come out of state receivership and maintaining its current rating as the nation's #1 HMO (US News Health Insurer rankings, 2008) If he runs, he will announce shortly.


  • Ability to raise money .
  • Telegenic and well spoken. His moderate stances and business background may appeal to independents.


  • Relatively low name recognition.
  • Heads up an HMO - his opponents will paint him as the a leader of an industry that ranks less favorably than lawyers (sorry cousin Jim) in terms of public perception.
  • Republican in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown - Sitting State Senator (Republican)


  • Well spoken and an active member in the Senate. Liked by the Republican establishment and has a track record of beating Democratic challengers for his Senate seat.


  • Relatively low name recognition.
  • Republican in Massachusetts.

Christy Mihos (Republican - for now anyway)

Mihos ran as an independent in 2006 and won 7% of the vote. Always unpredictable and outspoken, he is the only declared Republican in the race. He is quite a character (that is meant as a compliment :)


  • Personal fortune allows him to self-finance.
  • Outspokenness is admired by many in this day of packaged politicians.
  • High name recognition.


  • Reputation for not sticking to script and speaking a little too off the cuff.
  • Not liked by Republican establishment - he needs to build an organization on his own.
  • Caters to the "angry voter", but that may not be enough to win.
  • Republican in Massachusetts.

Right now I would give Governor Patrick despite low approval ratings (see polling info below) a decent chance of winning re-election at this early stage of the game. He is a Democratic incumbent in the most Democratic and liberal state in the nation (except for possibly RI). Patrick is an excellent campaigner with a very loyal following among Democratic party activists who propelled him to the governorship in 2006.

His biggest risk is being blamed for the state's fiscal crisis. He is clearly positioning himself as an outsider populist (especially viv-a-vis the state legislature). We shall see if this works in the long run.

The continuing weakness of the Republican Party in Massachusetts is Patrick's other asset. The Political Pulse's next posting will deal with this very topic.

It is very difficult to beat a sitting governor with the the Republican Party's brand is as toxic as it is. This will be a obstacle for Baker, Brown, Mihos, or any other Republican candidate to overcome. The eventual Republican nominee is likely to run as an independently-minded candidate. No visits from Rush please!

The Prof gives Patrick a 70% shot at reelection at this early stage. But of course I reserve the right to reverse myself as new info becomes available!

Early Polling

There have been a couple of early polls. Bear in mind that it is very early and voters have yet to focus on this race.

Rasmussen Poll - April 21, 2009 (500 Likely Voters, Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence)

Not good news for Patrick...his overall approval is only 34% which is poor for an incumbent seeking re-election.

Gov. Patrick's Approval rating

  • 8% Strongly approve
    26% Somewhat approve
    26% Somewhat disapprove
    39% Strongly disapprove
    1% Not sure

How likely is it that you will vote for Deval Patrick for Governor in next year’s gubernatorial election?

  • 13% Very likely
    20% Somewhat likely
    19% Not very likely
    38% Not at all likely
    9% Not sure

Suffolk University Poll March 26, 2009 (400 registered voters)

Patrick has a 44% favorable and 43% unfavorable rating

34% said Patrick deserves reelection, 47% time to elect someone else

Patrick vs. Cahill

Deval Patrick 30%, Tim Cahill 35%

(Editor's note: text identified Cahill as State Treasurer but did not identify Patrick as a Democrat or Cahill as a Republican)

Monday, May 18, 2009


Hi all,

I am planning to post several pieces over the next few weeks. My next one (hopefully it will be done by Memorial Day weekend) will be a very early handicapping of the 2010 Massachusetts Governor's race. Gentlemen (and ladies) place your bets...

As the season progresses and as the news warrants, expect also to see a piece on the state's fiscal problems and the appetite for the (almost certain) tax increases that Massachusetts will be facing in the coming months.

The Prof

Monday, May 11, 2009

Public opinion - good vs bad polls

Opinion Polling - lauded by pundits and politicians (especially if they are leading in a given survey) alike, is nonetheless an inexact science. Some polls are certainly better than others though in terms of accuracy and thus predictability.

The key of understanding a good versus a "not so good" poll is to read the small print explaining the methodology at the bottom of the results. The most important things to consider are the sample size and who (in terms of respondents) is actually surveyed.

Initially any sample needs to be weighted to ensure that it is demographically representative of the overall population. If it ain't representative, its no good - sort of like polling Cambridge or Amherst on the presidential race and concluding that we are are indeed a two-party country: Democrats and Greens! (the same hold true for polling in places like the Texas panhandle, rural Pennsylvania, and Lynnfield MA). All demographics groups need an equal chance to be selected, otherwise the results will be biased.

For any nationwide poll, the sample size should be at least 1,100 respondents. Anything much smaller and the margin of error (the statistical wiggle room that is a measure of how far off the sample response is from what the response would be if all the millions of potential voters were polled) begins increasing to the point where there is so much potential variation of the sample results from the entire population's results that the value of the poll is lessened. 1,100 respondents comes out to a 3% margin of error which is close enough to have decent predictive value.

Larger samples do cost more money, but will yield much more value. Personally, my eyes really open when I see sample sizes of 2,000 or greater (gets the margin of error within 2%)

A quick example of how the margin of error (we'll use 3%) is used based upon the following results:

Moe: poll result is 45% (range w/ error factored in is 42% to 48%)
Larry: poll result is 40% (range is 37% to 43%)
Curly: poll result is 15% (range is 12% to 18%)

The range consists of adding and subtracting the error (3% in this case) from the actual poll result. Statistically, there is a 95% chance that the actual election results if we polled everyone would be within those percentage ranges.

Bonus question - who is ahead in this example? If you answered Moe, better luck next time. Statistically speaking, Moe and Larry are tied as Moe's low end of 42% overlaps Larry's upper end of 43%. Curly is still bonked in the head as usual... Yes, the Prof. is a huge Stooges fan and I use this example in class.

The most important factor however, is WHO exactly is being polled. Usually this falls into the following four categories.

Adults - this is the simplest poll - as long as the respondent is an adult over the age of 18 they qualify as a respondent. The bad news is that it is the least accurate way to poll. Remember that about 40% of American Adults did not vote in the 2008 elections (which was a high turnout election) and that number is higher for state and local elections. Beware of polls of just Adults as a large proportion will end up not voting and therefore really don't matter unless and until they become voters.

Some media outfits publish (cheaply run) polls that have nationwide samples of 800 or 900 adults as respondents and tout these surveys as breaking news (usually in papers distributed nationally with a large blue logo and lots of color photos and a great weather page on the back of the first section). This is a nice way to fill column inches, but is not terribly meaningful in terms predictability.

Registered Voters - ahh, getting better! The respondent is asked if they are a registered voter. That tells the pollster if they are on the voter rolls (we will assume people are not lying to the pollster, although this can and does happen). This gets rid of the 25% of adults who are not registered to vote. Better than polling just adults, but not as good as screening for...

Likely Voters - this is the best method, since potential respondents are asked follow-up questions on how likely they are to trudge to the polls and vote on election day. If an individual indicates they are registered to vote, but has not voted since 1968, they would probably not be considered a likely voter. If they get someone like me who counts down the days to the next election (and will trudge thru four feet of snow to participate on election day), it is a pretty good bet that person will show up and cast a vote. Distinguishing a likely voter can be hit or miss, but for pre-election polls they are the most meaningful and therefore deserve the most attention.

Exit Polls - the ultimate poll! This does not ask just likely voters - it asks real voters as they are leaving a polling place on election day. They can' t change their mind as a voter can do in a pre-election survey and assuming they are honest in how they voted, this is the best measure of how a race will turn out. On election night, races are often called by the media based on exit polls, even before many actual results have trickled in. In 2006, Governor Patrick was declared the winner at about 8:02 PM based on his 20 pont lead in the exit polling.

Remember - no poll is perfect! There are many examples of how pollsters blew it and were dead wrong. The national exit polls were off in 2000 and 2004. In fact the 2004 exit polls overstated Kerry's vote to the point where he was competitive in several states (South Carolina and Virginia come to mind)he ended up losing by 10 points. The polls were pretty close in 2008 as better sampling techniques were implemented.

One more thing - the timing of a survey. In my previous posting regarding the Boston mayoral race, the poll was run six months prior to the election when most people (Lovoi excepted of course!) are not paying close attention. As the big day draws near, polls become more predictive.

Now that we know all about polls and how to read them...what? you want me to go over this again?? Ok, polling is...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mayor Menino set to cruise in Boston

The Boston Globe has a poll out this morning showing Mayor Menino in an extremely strong position to win a fifth term. I am not an expert on Boston politics by any stretch, but the Mayor's strength in these poll numbers (he is up 63-23 over Councilor Flaherty and 63-21 over Councilor Yoon)are the type that indicate an easy cruise to reelection for him this November. His support is widespread though all demographic groups.

Globe story and results from the NH Survey Center are below:

Usually there has to be some prevailing reason for voters to toss an incumbent out of office. According to this poll, Mayor Menino is not being blamed for the poor economic conditions and is seen as a generally effective mayor. The challengers also have the unenviable position of running against a Mayor with an extremely powerful organization and a large and loyal support base.

A couple of other things - with this being a local race and six months out to the election, most voters are not paying any attention to this race yet and won't until the fall. Additionally, this poll was conducted of 504 adults in Boston. They were not screened as voters (remember turnout in these elections is typically under 40 percent) so the numbers are somewhat "squishy" at this point, but my instincts tell me they are probably pretty accurate. I will blog more about polling and how to seperate the good (thuis accurate) ones in the near future.

The last time an incumbent mayor of Boston lost a race for reelection was James Michael Curley in 1949...unless some unknown scandal rocks this race, I see the 60 year record for Boston reelecting its mayors continuing.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Welcome all political junkies and those who have a casual interest in the machine that powers our republic! I am brand new at blogging so please pardon any growing pains that may be experienced as it moves forward.

A little background - I have resided in Massachusetts my entire life. From about the age of nine I have had a keen interest in politics/history/geography (all those geeky subjects). I remember having semi-serious 4th grade discussions over the 1976 election on the school bus - I was for Ford and my friend Jon was a Carter devote. (As I recall Ford did win the mock Huckleberry Hill School election in the Republican town of Lynnfield 210 to 155).

Throughout grammar school and Lynnfield High I always gravitated to classes in history and social studies. Thank goodness I was able to weasel out of physics!

After making the mistake during my first year at Nichols College of declaring as an Accounting major (I quickly learned the error of my ways after my well-deserved D in Intro to Accounting) I switched my major to Public Administration. I was fortunate enough to meet the late Professor Bob Fischer, the Director of The Institute For American Values, (now The Fischer Institute), who enabled me to get very involved in the fabric of public policy that had always engrossed me. I had the opportunity to go on class trips to Washington DC and hit some of the "think tanks" for various seminars and also Michigan where I got the chance to meet former President Ford in 1988.

After completing my graduate work in Political Science, I began teaching as an adjunct in 1993 and have been teaching two courses a year at Bentley University since 1998. I have taught course in many areas ranging from American Politics to Political Parties to International Relations. Less hair these days, but I still learn a great deal during each semester I teach.

I have a "regular job" in market intelligence outside of academia as well (where my political background is an asset), but my teaching lets me fulfill a deeply rooted passion of mine and is immensely satisfying. It is important in our democratic system that people are involved and understand it so I hope that my teaching does some good in that respect.

Although I lean more to the conservative side of the spectrum combined with some liberal leanings in certain areas (sort of libertarian, but not completely), my intention is that this blog serves as an educational forum where we can follow and discuss the issues of the day (2010 elections are just 18 months away!!) and have some fun handicapping the races as they come together. I play it down the middle as a good analyst should, but will not always completely nail it as evidenced by my opening post on the 2008 election where I somewhat underestimated the extent of Obama's win. Onwards!

Election 2008

Below is an analysis/prediction that I wrote the day before last November's election. Although I was not off by a whole lot (many of the swing states were relatively close), I underestimated Obama's margin of victory. I have added some commentary today in red text to bring things up to date.

Goes to show that us profs aren't always as wicked smaht as we think we are!

Published on Nov. 3, 2008
Ok - T minus one day and counting. Time for Professor Lovoi's amazingly accurate prediction for Nov. 4, 2008

The Professor's Prediction: (270 electoral votes needed for victory)
Electoral College: Obama 311 McCain 227 Actual was 365 to 173
National popular vote (two party): Obama 52% McCain 48% not too far off - it was 53% to 47%

All of this is mapped out and can be accessed at the following address - note the red and blue colors on US Election Atlas are reversed with blue for Republicans and red for Democrats

Looking at the electoral college math, it is a decidedly uphill climb for McCain and a relatively easy path for Obama to the White House. Lets look at the swing states and the latest Real Clear Politics polling averages…

Battleground States Obama McCain Spread

Florida 48.6 to 46.8 Obama +1.8
McCain is a squeaker (echoes of 2000?), the Jewish vote in South Florida won't be as Democratic as it usually is, although this may easily go the other way as the Cuban vote is less Republican - Mac by 2. Missed this one as Obama cleaned up with the Hispanic vote and won FL by 3

North Carolina 47.7 to 48.3 McCain +0.6
Ditto McCain - Obama will make it very close, but will fall 3-4 points short. However, he has forced Mac to spend resources in a state that should have been safe Mac by 4 points. Obama squeaked it by a point , the Tar Heel state is slowly changing politically and this is evidenced by Obama's strong showing in what should have been a gimme state for McCain.

Virginia 49.8 to 45.5 Obama +4.3
Obama wins - demographics have changed too much - Mac's only hope is that there is a huge turnout in Newport News (military vets), and in the rural southwest, but O's advantage in the DC suburbs should cement it for him by at least 4 points. got this one, Obama won by 6

Ohio 49.0 to 45.8 Obama +3.2
Obama hanging on by a thread, but it will be razor this as the Republican party is well organized and will get its voters out. However I would not at all be surprised to see Mac win either, a real tossup state Obama by 1. Obama won by 5, much like Clinton's victory in 1996.

Missouri 47.5 to 48.0 McCain +0.5
McCain hangs on, but high black turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City may make it a late night in this bellwether state Mac by 2. McCain won this by 0.1% -by only 6,000 votes out of 2.9 million cast!

Colorado 50.8 to 45.3 Obama +5.5
Obama - young people and Hispanics put him over the top and the state is skewing more Democratic at the local level, Obama by at 5. Obama won by 9, CO is turning bluer than I thought, again Hispanic voters were key

Nevada 49.6 to 43.4 Obama +6.2
Ditto Obama - organization and turnout should have him winning by at least 4. Obama took NV by 13 - I really was off on this one. Shows conventional wisdom can be very wrong

Other swing states
PA - (Otherwise known as Pennsyltucky) Essential for McCain if he is to have any hope of victory - if this goes blue lights out for Mac, if not, 'twill be a long evening. I think Obama will win PA by a couple, his turnout machine in Philly will put him over the top... Obama won by 10 as this state continues its Blue trend. Senator Specter's recent party switch is largely driven by him reading the political tea leaves in PA astutely.

NH - The four electoral votes out of NH should have been McCain's to lose, but the millstone around his neck named GW Bush will drown him is a sea of blue in the southeastern part of the state and the more liberal Ct Valley region And lose he did, by 10 points. NH is not the rock-ribbed Republican state of old.

IN - Surprise!! Indiana is a swing state where W. won by 20 points in 2004. McCain pulls it out by about 5, but again Obama has forced him to defend turf that he should have owned. Obama took this reliably red state by 1 point. The minority turnout in Gary and McCain under performing in the rural areas made this a sweet victory for the Dems.

Iowa - Obama by at least 5, I wonder why McCain sent Palin there over the weekend, unless his internal polls showed tightening…or he wanted the SNL appearance all to himself! Obama wins by 9 going away - the early organizing for the primary paid off in the general.

New Mexico - Obama easily (by at least 7) although W won this in 2004. And Obama won by 15 - again propelled by the Hispanic vote.

Outstanding questions we can ponder this evening…

Keys to Obama's Victory I think I was pretty darn close on these!

Change - the watchword for the Obama campaign. He has become the personification for what many voters want, a young, intelligent, and very new breed pf politician. This is also a chance to start putting America's racial issues to rest and that has immense appeal. McCain has run a poor campaign and unfortunately is not the guy he was in 2000 when he was the change candidate.
Money - he has raised a ton and by bypassing the spending restrictions has carried the fight to McCain' turf. McCain only has outside shots in the blue states of PA and NH. Without money he has been handicapped and abandoned states like MI, WI, and MN which could have been Republican pickups if not for...

The Economy - the Wall street meltdown hit as voters were making decisions and has acted calm and collected whilst McCain has lurched from idea to idea with no consistent message.

The Debates - Obama performed well in the debates and has run an incredibly disciplined campaign. He came across very well and was able to look and act presidential. McCain's debate performance was mediocre although it did improve in the last one, but he never got the knockout blow he needed.

New voters - minority voters are going to be a tsunami that will help that will help Obama in former Bush states such as NV, NM, VA, and OH. Young voters are enthusiastic as well - but will they turn out…I think so looking at the impressive organization that Obama has created.

Palin - which at first had seemed a positive tactical move to woo blue collar voters in the heartland, I think Palin has hurt Mac among women and suburban independents, although she did shore up the party's evangelical base. What if he had picked Ridge and put PA into play…or Romney who may (or may not as he is associated with Wall St!) have helped McCain's economic credentials? Palin's obvious inexperience and poor interviews with Gibson and Couric is outweighing her populist and reformer persona.

McCain's Age - see above. If he was 55 with no health issues, Palin would not be a drag she is now.

Biden - as with the Hippocratic Oath, rule #1 with a VP pick is do no harm. With Joe Biden, Obama helped calm concerns that he would be untested In foreign policy - he would only be tested by Mr. Biden's many gaffes!

George W Bush - with abysmal 25% public approval ratings, Obama has skillfully hung him around McCain's neck like a millstone and it has worked. Voters are looking for a way to punish him on the way out. The Republican brand image has suffered severe damage and they will lose at least six if not up to ten Senate seats along with thirty House seats. Thanks George!!

Can McCain win?
Yes, but his path runs thru PA and hanging onto OH, FL, and NC. Some argue that the polls have been wrong this year by over sampling, there may be a lot of undecideds breaking a the last minute…at least these are the McCain campaign's talking points over the weekend. The polls have tightened over the past few days and many of the swing states are within the margin of error. If he does score an upset by making the electoral college math work (I think he has about a 10% chance of doing this) there is the real possibility of 2000 all over again with the electoral college winner losing the nationwide popular vote. In hindsight given the dynamics of the campaign there was little chance he had any path to victory. I do think he made it closer than a Romney or Huckabee would have, but Obama is an absolute phenom who took this election by storm.

A blowout?
If certain things such as turnout and organization for Obama skew more his way than I think, he could well run up the total upwards of 375 electoral votes. This means the swing states all go his way and he picks off states like Louisiana and Georgia due to extraordinary African-American turnout. Even Arizona could go blue if some of the national polls showing Obama up by over 10 are indeed correct. Not quite a blowout, but a good decisive victory for Obama. McCain did hold the South and actually out-performed Bush in some of these states (WV and AR come to mind), but fared poorly in many traditionally Republican regions elsewhere. Obama's freshness, incredibly disciplined campaign, and organization served him well!

Massachusetts Results

Obama wins Massachusetts 62-38 (will be one Obama's top states behind VT, NY,and IL)
No incumbents lose in the state legislature - 100% reelection rate yet again (yes, it was a 100% reelection rate as always) …(I am hoping Diane Wilkerson wins the sticker campaign even though she has dropped out - it will just be funny if she does!) It was Obama 61-36 so I almost nailed it, Nader and Barr took the remainder

Massachusetts Ballot Questions
Question 1 to eliminate the income tax fails 60-40 Question 2 to decriminalize marijuana passes 55-45 Question 3 to ban greyhound racing passes 51-49 I was pretty close on these!