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