Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baker squeaks it out, The Prof Nails Most Races

I must give myself an A- in my predictions for this past election...did quite well!

Prediction                    Actual
Baker          48%            48.5%
Coakley       45%            46.6%
Falchuck        3%              3.3%
McCormack   2%              0.9%
Lively             2%              0.8%

Baker's win was due to multiple factors:
  • Exit polling did show a gender gap with Coakley winning women by 14 points. However, Baker won men by 16 points.
  • Although Coakley won the cities and inner Boston suburbs, her margins were worse than in Patrick's reelection in 2010. For example, Patrick won in the city of Boston by 47 points, but Coakley won by "only" 36 points. Baker also over-performed in many Democratic bastions such as Everett, Sharon, and Newton, won the liberal suburban communities of Wayland and Sudbury, and kept Coakley's margins in Worcester and Lowell to under 15 points.
  • Cambridge and Amherst were both 80-20 for Coakley - no surprises there!
  • Voters never really "liked" Martha Coakley and she failed to drive up Baker's negatives.
  • Baker was able to effectively distance himself from the national GOP. He also ran a very disciplined and largely mistake-free campaign.
  • Voters were most concerned about the economy and this is where Baker was seen to be a better manager than Coakley.
  • Coakley's campaign never really got off the ground and she did not enjoy unity among Democratic voters or politicians. About 20% of registered Democrats voted for Baker and several Democratic mayors and legislators endorsed Baker as well.
  • Third party candidates likely drew support away from both candidates in roughly equal proportions.
  • The death of former Boston Mayor Menino the week before the election effectively "froze" the election during the final weekend and kept a potential Baker gaffe about a New Bedford fisherman out of the headlines.
  • Baker won in the areas where he needed to and ran up large margins in Worcester, Plymouth, Essex, and Norfolk counties. This counteracted Coakley's wins in the Boston area and Western Massachusetts. See the below map for details.

Although Baker won, it was very close and was a margin only by two points (40,000 votes out of over two million cast). He succeeded in threading the needle for a Republican in Massachusetts to prevail.
  • Minimal campaign mistakes
  • Distance from national GOP, non-partisan approach
  • Liberal or agnostic on social issues
  • Willing to work with Democrats, angry Tea Party candidates simply cannot win here
  • Weak Democratic candidate juxtaposed with an attractive Republican candidate
In all other major statewide races, Massachusetts remained solidly blue and elected Democrats to all other constitutional offices by wide margins. Senator Markey won reelection against a largely unknown challenger, 62-38. Republicans did pick up 2 seats in the State Senate and 6 in the House...still in a tiny minority, but some progress.

I nailed most of my other prediction as well, missing only one call.
  • Question 1 did pass narrowly where I thought it would not. My predictions on Questions 2,3, and 4 were all correct along with the predicted lopsided margins.
  • Seth Moulton defeated Richard Tsei in the 6h Congressional district. While I thought Moulton would win a narrow race, he won by 15 points. In this case, I think that Moulton's status as a newcomer and military veteran contrasted sharply with Tsei being on the ballot for the past three cycles and his being in state government since 1984. Being a fresh-faced outsider helped!
  • Scott Brown may now consider moving to another state for Senate after losing by 3 points to Shaheen in NH. I think that a Vermont seat is open in 2016...
 Good Night for Republicans Nationwide

Republicans won the Senate in a major wave, flipping 8 seats (possibly 9, after the Louisiana runoff in December). The GOP will enjoy a nearly 50 seat majority in the House. They also won a number of Governorships in Democratic states (IL, MA, and MD) and expanded their nationwide lead in state legislatures. 

Looking at exit polls, the GOP benefited from higher turnout among white voters, low turnout among minorities (typical for a midterm election cycle), and the continuing unpopularity of the President. I do not necessarily see this as a mandate for the Republicans, but more a rejection of the status quo.

Now, can they govern and how does this affect the last two years of President Obama's term? Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have alternated between conciliatory and fighting words - as has President Obama.

I think, based on early observations, that there will be continued confrontation on Capital Hill. If the president issues any sort of amnesty decree via executive order, there will be little, if any, cooperation going forward. Additionally, 2016 presidential politics will affect both legislation and the dynamics in Washington. I will write more on this and what it means in the near future.


The Prof

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 Election Final Predictions

Here we are, T minus 2 days to Election 2014. Now at the end of a most tumultuous campaign season it is prediction time for The Prof. Let's see how much crow I will be eating on Wednesday morning!

Massachusetts Governor

Baker          48%
Coakley       45%
Falchuck        3%
McCormack   2%
Lively             2%

Charlie Baker will win the governorship in a close race. Contrary to my earlier thinking, I see Martha Coakley blowing her second big election in a row. She has run a relatively poor campaign and has not sealed the deal, even with a a sizable portion of Democrats. Baker also needs to be credited with running a disciplined and largely mistake-free campaign.

Baker's narrative about needing a counterweight to the Democratic majorities on Beacon Hill has indeed resonated and was a smart play for Baker. On policy, he has inoculated himself from the very toxic tea party wing of the GOP (note on social issues, he is running well left of center) and Coakley has not been able to tie him effectively to the national GOP. This is not for lack of trying (nearly every ad refers to REPUBLICAN Charlie Baker), but the ads have not been moving the needle enough to redefine Baker.

On fiscal issues, Baker is likely more in step with voters and the polling suggests that voters see Coakley as more apt to raise taxes. On the hot button issue of drivers licenses for illegals, Baker probably is with the majority of voters. Coakley has many policy views more in step with the public (expanding paid sick leave for example), but they simply are not resonating this year. Baker's overall negatives are still fairly low and this demonstrates that attack ads did not have their intended effects. Ironically, Baker's attack ads on Coakley may have had their desired effect as her negative and positive ratings are about even.

One surprise is that the gender gap does not appear to be swamping Baker (my earlier blogging about the power of the sisterhood may be turned on its head in this case). Indeed, polling is showing that Coakley is suffering her own gender gap and seems to be losing the male vote by nearly 10 points while winning the female vote by only seven points

I maintain that Coakley has run a relatively poor campaign throughout (snatching defeat from the jaws of victory given the state party demographics) and this reinforces a perception that she will not be a strong performer in the corner office. She is losing nearly a quarter of registered Democrats - unforgivable in a partisan atmosphere (lukewarm endorsements from her defeated rivals have not helped). She is responsible for this, although the media certainly amplifies and reinforces these perceptions.

Keys to Election Night
  • Watch the margins in urban areas. If Coakley is winning cities such as Boston and Lynn by less than 20 points, she is in trouble. Baker has worked hard to expand his outreach in inner cities and minority communities. He does not aim win these areas, merely to lessen the losses. In 2012, Elizabeth Warren beat Scott Brown by over 40 points in large cities. Coakley needs to come close to that margin.
  • Central Massachusetts and the South Shore - long two of the GOP's key regions, Baker needs to run up big wins here to mitigate an expected large loss in Middlesex County, especially along the Route 2 corridor.
  • Bell-weather communities that tend to mirror the state such as Waltham and Gardner may set early indications for how the evening will turn out. (update bellweather polls in Waltham and Gloucester give Baker a minute lead....this will be a CLOSE race)
  • Turnout - does the Democratic machine get its voters out? If so, this may erase the current polling lead that Baker seems to be enjoying.

Other Statewide Races
  • Seth Moulton beats Richard Tsei in a close race (less than five points) in the 6th district. If Tsei was running against Tierney, it would have been a certain GOP pickup, but the Massachusetts Republicans will retain their dubious 0-9 record in Congress-bound races...
  • Ditto on the other statewide races. Incumbent senator Ed Markey easily defeats Brian Herr for US Senate and all of the Democrats running for statewide constitutional offices win by at least ten points each. Up and coming Attorney General To Be Maura Healy may win by close to 40 points.
  • One bright spot for the GOP is that they will improve their anemic membership in the state legislature, as they are currently outnumbered by the Democrats who have 85% of state legislative seats.

    Ballot Questions
  1. Question 1 on ending the indexing of the gas tax to inflation loses due to its poor wording.If it was worded in a more understandable manner, polling shows that it would bass easily.
  2. Question 2 on expanding the bottle law will lose by a wide margin, probably 60-40.
  3. Question 3 which would ban casinos will lose as well, but the margin will be less than ten points.
  4. Question 4 on expanding sick leave passes 60-40 or more. 

National Races

The Republicans probably will take the Senate with  a host of pickups in red states. The GOP is fortunate as many of the Senate races happen to be in states that President Obama lost in 2012. They are also fortunate to generally have strong candidates and will not be throwing away victories due to poor quality candidates similar to what occurred in 2010 and 2012. However, as Louisiana and Georgia have runoffs if no one candidate attains 50% on Tuesday, we may not know for sure until those runoffs which would be held in December. President Obama's toxic ratings (he is even under 50% favorability in true blue Massachusetts) will help the GOP takes several Democratic seats, notably in Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Iowa.

I will go out on a limb and predict that Scott Brown beats Jeane Shaheen in New Hampshire in a race decided by about 1% of the vote. But I wouldn't bet more than a nickle either way on this. (update - Bellweather poll in Manchester and Epping shows Shaheen with a lead in these key communities - I retract the Brown prediction...if this is true...)

Post election wrap-up later in the week. Oh, now less than 60 days until 2015 and the presidential invisible primary will be well underway. Yes, I am smiling at the prospect!


The Prof

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Massachusetts Primary Update - the Coakley Juggernaut

Hi all,

Been far too long since I have written and a quick recap is in order.

Although State Treasurer Steve Grossman won the endorsement of the delegates at the State Democratic convention, he continues (as predicted) to lag far behind frontrunner Attorney General Martha Coakley in the weekly polling that the Boston Globe has been running.

The latest Globe poll (August 15) of likely Democratic primary voters shows the following.
Coakley     45
Grossman  21
Berwick    10

The results, showing Coakley holding a comfortable lead, are consistent throughout all of the polling done on this race in the past several months. Grossman and Berwick are still widely unknown, even among likely voters, whilst Coakley with her long tenure in the AG's office and Senate loss to Brown in 2010 is a known quantity to the majority of Massachusetts residents.

Some of this is due to Grossman's cautious approach and he has made several missteps that will contribute to his probable loss on the September 9 primary.
  • He has failed to parlay his convention endorsement into any sort of momentum. True, summer is a dead season politically, but he has made no real headway to erase his limited exposure and name recognition.
  • Much of the reason for the above is a failure to use his considerable wealth to advertise and promote himself. A third of voters still do not recognize his name while Coakley has over 90% name recognition. He is beginning to advertise now, but I think it is just too little too late. After Labor Day there will be a week's worth of campaigning and he is behind the Eight Ball. Too little too late.
  • Not to be harsh, but Grossman simply is not engaging and/or electrifying as a candidate. The left wing of the party is enamored of Berwick and as Grossman and Coakley have similar policy positions, he is having trouble creating real distinctions. Passion and message matter - recall Governor Patrick was considered an also-ran once, but used his tremendous political skills and ability to connect with voters to his advantage.
  • Grossman is also in the difficult position of having to be careful - if he attacks Coakley too aggressively, he may damage the party's chance to win in November and also risks being portrayed as a sexist. In Massachusetts, identity politics really do matter and Grossman risks a lot if he is seen as being "too mean-spirited". However, if he does not go after her and knock down her ratings, he will lose the race. An unenviable position.
Martha Coakley, on the other hand, is coasting - this may be a potential problem in November, but is working thus far.
  • Inevitability - she has been the frontrunner throughout. Many voters want to be with a perceived winner and not waste their vote (hence Berwick's poor showing). The media coverage of the race is fueling this perception.
  • As I have mentioned before, the "sisterhood" is a huge factor and advantage. Note that Coakley's first television ad talks about the "old boy network" - this is politically smart and activates her core female supports. Also, a majority of Democratic primary voters will be female. The potential history-making event of the first elected female governor in Massachusetts cannot be emphasized enough. It is a key factor for these activists who donate their money, time, and enthusiasm.
  • Coakley is also well known statewide and will take advantage of some of the sympathy that she was able to garner after her Senate loss. Her favorability among all voters is relatively high (53% in the latest poll). All in all, a good place to be three weeks out from the primary.
One note about Donald Berwick - the left-wing Party activists like/adore him and propelled him into a strong third place finish at the convention. But he is a literally focusing only on the issues of single-payer healthcare and opposition to casinos. Unfortunately for Berwick, he has little charisma, money, and coverage (over 70% of likely voters do not know who he is). The support of activists in Cambridge, Brookline, and Amherst will not be enough for a primary win...

I am standing by my prediction that Coakley wins the September 9 primary comfortably, although I suspect the race will close a bit after Labor Day. Ironically, Berwick is hurting Grossman as any anti-Coakley vote is being split. Some in the Party believe Coakley may be a weaker general election candidate due to her previously illustrated lack of campaigning skills, but this will not be enough to stop her inevitable nomination.

OK- some numbers for September. I predict (on a short limb)

Coakley    47 (the juggernaut rolls - she wins Middlesex county convincingly and wins or places a close second in most communities)
Grossman 38 (statewide support, but just not enough - will win many blue collar communities though)
Berwick   15 (wins Amherst and maybe Newton and does well in liberal suburbs)

Coakley vs Baker (Baker will dispatch Mark Fisher on September 9 with little fanfare) will be a good race - I still give the edge to Coakley, but once we get into September and past the primaries the campaign will take on an entirely new theme. Stay tuned!


The Prof

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Predictions 2014 - What Will the Year Bring? Massachusetts Edition

Happy New Year!

2014 means a return to electoral politics and thus more blogging from the Prof. I am going to take the liberty (and very possible egg on my face 11 months hence) of gazing into the crystal ball and predicting the midterm electoral results.  My focus for this post will be on Massachusetts, (I will attempt to divine what will happen with the nationwide midterm elections in the next edition) The crystal ball is still very cloudy this far out...

Massachusetts Governor

This race represents the best chance for the long-suffering state GOP to have some sorely needed electoral success. Unfortunately for the GOP, I see Charlie Baker's chances at less than 50/50, but do think it remains possible for him to win.


The Democrats have what looks to be a crowded field for the primary. As party rules state that any candidate who does not get 15% of the support of delegates at the state party convention cannot appear on the primary ballot, this field is likely to be winnowed down.

Top tier candidates who will appear on the primary ballot
  • Martha Coakley, the current State Attorney General - predicted nominee
  • Steven Grossman, the current State Treasurer
 The rest of the pack
  • Joseph Avellone, executive at PAREXEL
  • Donald Berwick, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Juliette Kayyem, former official in the Department of Homeland Security
I predict the Coakley, Grossman, and at least one of the remaining three (I am thinking Kayyem as she has a lot of progressive support) garner enough support among the activist base at the party convention make it to the primary ballot.

The real race is likely to be between Coakley and Grossman. Grossman has the demonstrated means to raise a tremendous amount of money, but suffers from a lack of name recognition and a low overall profile. Coakley has very high name recognition, but has a problem with lackluster campaign skills and the loss to Scott Brown in 2010 continues to make party leaders a bit wary. However, I think that Coakley has improved on these skills, has very high favorability numbers, and with the potential to be the first elected female governor will activate the "sisterhood" (more on this shortly). This will propel her to the Democratic nomination.


Charlie Baker (along with Lt. Governor running mate Katyn Polito) will face nominal opposition for the party nomination from Tea Party activist Mark Fisher, but will coast to the GOP nomination.


Jeffrey McCormick, Venture Capitalist is going to launch a well-financed candidacy and will probably have enough support to qualify for the general election ballot. As he appears to be a fiscal conservative, this may be detrimental to the GOP's chances in November.

General Election

Martha Coakley is likely to win a fairly close race and become the Commonwealth's next governor.

The aforementioned "sisterhood"... the activist base of the Democratic party with a high proportion of liberal female voters will turn out in force (as they did for Elizabeth Warren in  2012). Additionally, many suburban independent female voters will be drawn to Coakley.

Why is this likely?

The long-standing electoral gender gap, that has men more likely to favor the GOP and women leaning more toward Democrats, will be widened. This reasoning is based on early polling for both the state governor's race and the 2016 presidential race. This shows that both Coakley and Clinton are enhancing their natural advantage among female voters (especially independent female voters) at higher rates than male Democratic candidates. Energizing base voters and taking a higher proportion of independent women than a male candidate (like Grossman) is a huge plus for Coakley. It may mean an extra boost that will turn a close election.

Another key reason is the long-suffering GOP brand image. The Massachusetts GOP and Baker himself represent a socially moderate fiscally conservative model that should be positioned well with the preferences of many Bay State voters. However, as I have mentioned numerous times, the national GOP is socially very conservative which plays very poorly with the majority of voters in Massachusetts. The Democrats will tie Baker to the most radical members of the Tea Party at every opportunity. Expect  Baker to be hammered on this; he will need a strategy to counteract this...but he risks the more conservative elements of the local GOP staying home on election day if he is overly anti-Tea Party. A tough situation for him to be sure.

Independent candidate Jeffrey McCormick, should he be on the ballot, will bleed votes that are far more likely to go to Baker if it was a one on one race against Coakley. In what will be a close race, 2% means a lot!

Both Baker and Coakley suffer from poor past image. Baker is trying to rectify that and transform himself to a reasonable and caring candidate from the rather "angry candidate" role that he took in his 2010 loss to Deval Patrick. Coakley is running the AG's office in a very high profile way promoting the public good and going after unfair business practices. Expect more negative stories and reports regarding the state's health carriers - Baker is the past CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and I see Coakley using her role as AG to expose any practices in the industry that may be considered dubious.

Coakley has her own problems that will be highlighted during the campaign. She does not have a particularly engaging personality and comes off as aloof. Expect her to run as a moderate on fiscal issues and a progressive on social issues.

Bet she campaigns vigorously outside of Fenway Park this time!

The key issues of this race are likely going to be healthcare (if health reform is a bust, it helps Baker immensely) and state fiscal policy. Baker and Coakley have significant policy differences both of these issues that will provide a good and healthy debate. A sleep issue is that there may be a mini tax revolt as there is a ballot question that would repeal recently enacted legislation that provided for automatic yearly increase to the gas tax.  Expect casinos to be a point of contention as well.

This promises to be a lively race, but in the end this is how the vote will probably look - yes, I acknowledge that I am way out on a limb here!

Coakley 51%
Baker 46%
McCormick 3%

On November 4, I can look back on this and see how incorrect I was...or possibly how predictive...

Other Races

Senator Markey cruises to reelection.  As of today, there are no declared GOP candidates. He may get a free ride if the GOP cannot find a warm body.

All  incumbents in the House of Representatives (all Democrats - this IS Massachusetts after all) are easily reelected...with one exception!

6th Congressional District turns Red

I think that the upcoming rematch between Incumbent John Tierney and GOP challenger Richard Tisei on the North Shore will be another very close race. In 2010, Tierney won by a 1% margin. He benefited from the Libertarian candidate winning over 4% of the vote (most of which would have leaned to Tisei) and the power of both President Obama and Elizabeth Warren's turnout machine. 2014 will present a more favorable environment for Tisei and I do think that he will win a narrow race against the scandal-plagued Tierney. In fact, there is a Democrat, former Marine Seth Moulton, challenging Tierney in the party primary. Many Democrats are rightly worried that Tierney will be unable to hold the seat. I share that assessment.

The Democrats easily hold all of the other state constitutional elected offices (AG, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and State Auditor). Several of these races will not even be contested by the Republicans.

The GOP will make very limited (if any) gains in the state legislature and the Democratic monopoly in this institution continues for the foreseeable future.

Of course, I reserve the right to change any of these predictions as conditions warrant - but it is still interesting and instructive to evaluate the landscape for  2014. As my favorite commentator on all things political, Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, often says - those who live by the crystal ball often end up eating ground glass. Wise words indeed!


The Prof