Post from October, 2010

Watch Party Nov. 2nd!

Sunday, 31. October 2010 10:05

Just a reminder, the political scientists of the ATU History & Political Science department will be out at Ruby Tuesday’s in Russellville for a watch party as the election returns come in on November 2nd. We’re going to get started around 6pm and will go as long as we can (Close it down? Definate…maybe!). For those of you who can’t make it out, I will be live-blogging the election returns from the watch party so tune in on Nov. 2nd for up-to-the-minute election analysis. D.GOOCH

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Bad Analysis of Early Voting

Thursday, 28. October 2010 12:22

Here’s a recent article suggesting that the conventional wisdom — Republican wave on Nov. 2nd — might be overstated. While the premise is OK (there are alot of decent arguments the wave may be exaggerated in the MSM), the analysis of the data upon which the argument is based is particularly bad. Let’s take a look at this argument (a.k.a. wishful thinking):

There’s abundant evidence – often ignored or discounted by mainstream media outlets – that the organized base of the Democratic Party is stirring in ways that pollsters and pundits are likely to miss.

There’s nothing wrong with this point on its own. It is extremely difficult to identify the population of voters in any given election and there are all sorts of sampling and likely voter screen problems that can crop up to give us a distorted view of the electorate. Polling in the 2002 and 2004 elections, for example, suggested a larger bastion of Democratic support than actually showed up at the polls. But let’s turn to the evidence Mr. Lewis uses in his NY Daily article to posture against the apparent polling trends in 2010.

Republicans may be more fired up, but enthusiasm doesn’t win races. Early voting numbers show Democrats have actually cast more ballots than Republicans in Louisiana, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia, according to Reuters. Although GOP early voters have the advantage in Colorado and Florida, the early voting doesn’t suggest a Republican blowout is in the works.

In West Virginia, for instance, Democratic turnout is 30 points higher than GOP numbers among early voters. That’s welcome news to Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, (above) who is running against Republican businessman John Raese for the Senate seat held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

Enthusiasm doesn’t win races? Of course it does. A more enthusiastic base turns out more voters. A less enthusiastic base turns out fewer. Enthusiasm can be overrstated, especially when it comes to actual turnout, but let’s not get crazy here. As for the data, the partisan breakdown on early voting is a bad predictor if you’re not going to take account the registration advantage one party can have over the other in a state. For example, touting West Virginia early voting Democratic turnout over Republican turnout doesn’t account for the 2 to 1 Democratic advantage in registration in West Virginia. It also doesn’t tell us who those [mostly] conservative Democrats are voting for. Bad indicator.

Another big story that hasn’t drawn much notice is the role black voters will play. “There are more than a dozen Senate races and more than a dozen governor’s races where the black vote could make a difference,” says David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

This isn’t a “big story.” It *would* be a big story if it happened, but the reason few people are talking about it is a good one – 2010 black turnout is going to lag significantly behind the 2008 black turnout. In 2008 we had a Democratic year, a presidential year (black turnout is always higher in presidential races than midterms), an historic black candidacy for president, an extremely unpopular Republican president, and a bad Republican presidential candidate. None of that is true in this election cycle. The notion that black turnout could meet or exceed 2008 levels is simply ridiculous. And note, no evidence is offered to suggest we should expect a large black turnout in 2010. Bositis just points to races where a big black turnout could matter. Well, a few extra touchdowns could turn the tide for the Bears on any given Sunday…but that hardly is reason to expect or predict them (much more likely outcome – Cutler throws pick 6).

Bositis says this year could end up looking like 1998, when Dems reversed half a century of history by picking up seats in the sixth year of a President’s term rather than losing any.

And I could win the lottery this year. Well, no I couldn’t, since I don’t play the lottery. Which means my chances of winning the lottery are slightly worse than the chances 2010 turns out like 1998. This simply illustrates extreme ignorance of the politics of midterms and the evidence aligned in favor of a Republican wave in 2010. You have to ignore current demographic characteristics of in-play Democrat-held seats, the sheer number of seats they are defending, and you have to turn a blind eye to every single poll, the polling trends, and historical trends to throw water on the Republican wave thesis…let alone the extreme wishful thinking of Democrats gaining seats in 2010. That’s not just being unconventional…it’s being silly. On par with predicting the end of the world in 2012 because that’s when the Mayan calander ends. Yeah, that’s a reason for the prediction…a really, really bad one.

I recall anti-wave arguments advanced by Republicans and conservatives prior to the 2006 midterm elections contra all the evidence suggesting a big Democratic win…and we saw how that turned out. Could the wave be overstated? Sure. Is it completely ephemeral? No, no, a thousand times no. Frankly, this doesn’t even qualify as wishful thinking. This isn’t thinking at all…it’s just wishing. Part of the problem is that the author is operating on bad assumptions:

– Republican rhetoric in 1998 was extreme and “grossly unfair”
– The public percieved Republicans as having “gone too far’ in 1998
– The public punished Republicans at the polls for this

None of that is true. Remember, the House didn’t impeach Clinton until December, i.e. after the election. The ‘attacks’ on Clinton were just as pointed in 1994 and especially in 1996, an election year. Clinton’s morality was an issue in 1992 when he ran and remained an omnipresent source of discontent with his presidency among conservatives. A majority of the public didn’t want Clinton impeached, what with the economy booming, but the notion these ‘attacks’ were seen as ‘grossly unfair’ is nothing more than the author of the article inserting his own feelings about the Clinton impeachment into the article under the guise of ‘many say.’ The reason Republicans didn’t pick up big gains in 1998 (the traditional ‘bad’ midterm for two term presidents) is that they’d already picked up most of those seats in 1994. The Republicans were a firm majority in 1998…and defending alot of centrist districts in that election. The “public rejects Republicans for extreme anti-Clinton attacks” meme was post-hoc rationalization of the election result. When, in fact, there were clear structural reasons for that election having been a bit of a Republican fizzle (from a historical perspective). Namely, Republicans had ‘maxed out’ on their possible seat wins in 1994 and there’s only one way to go from your theoretical maximum (that’s ‘down’ for those of you in Rio Linda).

Now, were Republicans at that maximum in 1998? No way to know for sure…but they were likely very close to it. Look at this chart from Cook Political Report. Republicans in 1996 held 57 Democrat-leaning seats (in other words, they held seats that voted for Clinton in 1992 & 1996). IOW, over 25% of their caucus were representing seats that had voted for the Democratic presidential candidate. Contrast that with 2008, where they are holding only 17 seats in Democratic territory, which represents only 9.5% of their caucus. To put it simply, Republicans had a much tougher task of defending their seats in 1998 than in 2010…mostly because they had a majority in 1998 and they’re a minority now.

There is no way the election on November 2nd is going to look anything like that of November of 1998. None.

Could something that dramatic be in the works this year – when, as in 1998, a Democratic President is under heavy fire from Republicans in ways that many see as grossly unfair? Don’t rule it out.

Rule it out. D.GOOCH

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Vote for Me!…I have a puppy!

Thursday, 28. October 2010 11:01

Compelling argument, Joe Sestak! You win again, cuteness!

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So you want a Ph.D. in Political Science…

Thursday, 28. October 2010 10:46

Oh, waaaaaay too much truth in this one:

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So you want to go to Law School…

Wednesday, 27. October 2010 18:42

Some racy language. You are forewarned.

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So you want to get a Ph.D….

Wednesday, 27. October 2010 18:26

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Halloween-Themed Political Ad

Wednesday, 27. October 2010 18:20

Heh. Well, politics is often scary with a number of monsters and back-from-the-dead zombies wandering around. Why not?

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Carter Debunked – Anderson Irrelevant in ’80

Tuesday, 26. October 2010 15:07

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States and loser to Ronald Reagan in 1980 recently claimed in an interview on Hardball with Chris Mathews that a “third party candidate” came into the election late and picked up “liberal democrats” and thus, given the fact Reagan only won with 51% of the vote, Reagan won “because” of the third party candidate.

Carter claims that Anderson split the Democratic party’s vote, leading directly to Reagan’s victory. But this claim is risible on its face given that Reagan won 489 electoral votes (to Carter’s 49 electoral votes). Even if we give every single vote of Anderson’s to Carter, Reagan still wins the popular vote by 2 million votes. But let’s consider the claim that Anderson’s vote was composed mostly of liberal Democrats (who we could have expected to go to Carter in a 2-man race) and then look at the vote and see what effect it could have had.

Using the 1980 ANES (American National Election Study), we can assess the relative approval of the candidates using feeling thermometers, which ask respondents to rate the person or organization on a scale of 0 – 100 (0 being ‘hate the guy’ and 100 being ‘love the guy’). Now, just because a respondent rates one candidate over the other on a feeling thermometer doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how they would have voted…but it is a reasonable proxy. Anderson got 6.6% of the vote in the actional election, while his vote is 8.8% of the sample vote from the ANES (could be random variation or some reflection of Duverger’s Law). Those percentages are fairly comprable, so we should be able to use the 1980 ANES sample vote as a good proxy for the actual election results.

First lets look at how the partisans viewed the candidates. Here is average thermometer score for the three presidential candidates among Republicans. Remember, it is on a scale of 0-100 with a higher score meaning they like that candidate better:


Unsurprisingly, Republicans liked Reagan a lot more than they liked Carter. But they also liked Anderson more than they liked Carter, which at least suggests they didn’t view Anderson as a further Left choice than Carter. Let’s look at Democrats.


So Democrats tended to like Reagan a bit more than Republicans did Carter…and they liked Carter a little less than Republicans liked Reagan. The opinion of Anderson, however, is pretty much the same. That suggests that Carter’s problem in 1980 was less about Anderson and more about his support among his own partisans relative to that enjoyed by Reagan and his fellow Republicans. Of course, this is among the full sample of partisans and does not screen based on voting. Furthermore, the Anderson feeling thermometer is a bit suspect since respondents tend to pick ‘50’ when they don’t recognize a person they’re asked to rate rather than admitting they don’t know or have no opinion. So there will be a strong central tendency in the relatively unknown Anderson’s feeling thermometer due to voter ignorance.

So let’s, instead, look at those in the ANES who actually voted for Anderson and who they might have preferred if it had just been a two man race between Reagan and Carter.


As we can see, there is some support here for Carter’s supposition that Anderson voters were more predisposed towards him than Reagan. On average, Anderson voters liked Carter nearly 8 thermometer points better than Reagan. Let’s look at the individual scores. Remember, these tables report the difference between the Reagan thermometer and the Carter thermometer, so a positive number indicates they liked Reagan better than Carter and vice versa for a negative number. A zero means they liked both candidates equally.


So we can see at the tails t here are just as many Anderson voters who hated Carter as Anderson voters who hated Reagan. But as we move inward we find significantly more Anderson voters who seem to have liked Carter a little bit to a substantial bit more than Reagan. The largest frequency of Anderson voters fall in the -20 range, which is a fairly large percentage who liked Carter 20 total points (1/5th of the scale) more than they liked Reagan (1.3 in 10 Anderson voters). However, the next largest group is the ‘0’ group, where the Anderson voters liked each candidate equally well. If we assume that Anderson voters, forced to make a choice between Reagan and Carter, would have chosen the candidate they liked better, then the vote distribution between Reagan and Carter among Anderson voters looks like this:


So Carter certainly wins the Anderson vote by a wide margin, lending credence to his argument that Anderson’s third party bid did damage to his own vote totals, but was it enough to be decisive in the 1980 election, as Carter argued on Hardball? Hardly. If we distribute Anderson votes accordingly we get this popular vote result for the candidates:

Anderson Voters Distributed to Reagan & Carter Per ANES Percentages

Reagan wins the popular vote by a little more than 8 points, and I don’t believe any presidential candidate in history has lost the Electoral College when they had that large a spread in the popular vote. That said, let’s look at the close states that Reagan won and see if that incremental improvement for Carter might have made the difference in those close states. Anderson got 6.6 percent of the vote. If we distribute his vote evenly (assuming that his vote percentage would have been distributed evenly across the states), then Carter would pick up 1.55% points across the board. Note, the assumption may be faulty as there may be fewer Anderson voters in the states that Reagan won. So this assumption will tend to err on the side of Carter’s thesis if Anderson ran behind is mean vote in the state..and work against it if Anderson ran ahead in that state. If we looked at Anderson’s real percentages in each of these states rather than his overall percentage…some of these states might stay with Reagan rather than flip. I’ll look at that next. For now, we’ll stick with that assumption for the ‘close’ states.

Electoral College Results w/ Anderson Adjustment to State % – Close States

So adding in the Anderson adjustment does flip a few states in Carter’s direction. Assuming the Anderson vote was distributed evenly, Carter would pick up 7 more states. But those 7 states account for only 63 electoral votes. That would still have resulted in a Reagan landslide: Reagan – 426 electoral votes / Carter – 112 electoral votes. Indeed, if we just give Carter all the close Reagan states, the maximum number of electoral votes he could have picked up was 135, which still is a 354 / 184 crushing defeat for Carter.

It’s even worse for Carter if we use the actual Anderson per-state percentages. Below is a table that shows the states that Reagan won where the Anderson percentage of the vote was larger than the difference between Reagan and Carter’s percentage of the vote. I’ve included the actual Reagan, Carter, and Anderson percentages from 1980. I then apply the percentage of the Anderson vote we would give to Reagan & Carter based on the 1980 ANES feeling thermometers (the Anderson adjustment) to that percentage. The next two columns are the Reagan and Carter percentages with the Anderson adjustment added in. If it flips the vote in favor of Carter, I award him that states electoral votes (last column).

Electoral College Results w/ Anderson Adjustment to Per-State Percentages

As you can see, applying the Anderson adjustment, Carter only picks up two of the states that Reagan won in 1980 –- Massachusetts and Tennessee — for a total of 24 additional electoral votes. However you do it, Reagan wins in a landslide every time.

In sum: Carter is wrong. Anderson had no effect on the result of the 1980 election. We don’t even have to bother considering the countervailing effect Ed Carter, the Libertarian candidate, might have had in pulling votes away from Reagan. While Anderson undoubtedly pulled some votes away from Carter and might have cost him a few states (making Carter’s loss a little less embarrassing), it would have in no way changed who was president in January of 1981. That was going to be Ronald Reagan under every conceivable scenario.

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Courier Coverage of the H&PS Department

Saturday, 23. October 2010 17:20

The full article for the Goldberg talk is cached here entitled “Top Author to Talk at Tech” (quite alliterative!).

And an article mentioning my and Dr. Housenick’s contributions in helping the Courier conduct a scientific poll of the Russellville mayoral race can be found here and here.

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Goldberg Lecture

Tuesday, 19. October 2010 10:36

Well, the Goldberg lecture was last evening, and I think it went quite well and so did Jonah. While the audience was a bit muted, everyone seemed to be paying attention and there were some very good and insightful questions asked during the Q&A session. Goldberg’s argument on the progressive movement’s flirtation with fascim in the early part of the 20th century was both intriguing and provocative. I thought his best point came towards the end of his talk, noting the distinct intellectual and philosophical differences between the individualistic Lockian vision of man, the state of nature, society, etc. and that of the Rousseauian vision of the pursuit of the greater good and the subserviance of the individual to the general will. His point that this division “cuts through the human heart” and that we both want to establish individual identities and belong to something greater than us was a good one and quite illuminating of the political differences that exist in society today. I further thought his Hartizan (though he didn’t mention Hartz explicitly) assertion that America is culturally predisposed towards a Lockian view of government was both astute and correct. While Hartz meant it as a criticism of our culture and Goldberg finds it praiseworthy, that both acknowledge this essential and ‘exceptional’ character of the American identity underscores it as a fundamental truth about American politics. All in all, a very good night. D.GOOCH

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Jonah Goldberg in da House!

Monday, 18. October 2010 5:54

Tonight marks the first of our speakers in the 2010-2011 Guest Lecture Series on Liberty, Markets, & Political Economy. Our first lecturer is Jonah Goldberg. Jonah is a nationally syndicated columnist, was the founding editor of National Review Online, is the NY Times best-selling author of Liberal Fascism, and is currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He will be presenting his talk, “No Time for a New Deal” at 7pm in the East Dinning Room of Chambers Hall. The talk is free and open to the public. There will be a Q&A session and a book signing following the talk. I’m very much looking forward to an excellent evening of intellectual discussion!!

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2010 Midterm Predictions: HOUSE

Friday, 15. October 2010 14:46

111th House of Representatives: Democrats – 257 | Republicans – 199

OK, here are my House of Representative predictions for the 2010 midterms. I review 4 of the Arkansas races, which will not only reflect the Republican wave but substantially change Arkansas’s representation in the national legislature. Arkansas stands to move from near-uniform Democratic representation (3 out of 4 House seats and both Senators) to a tilt-Republican delegation (split in the Senate, 3 out of 4 House seats belonging to Republicans). Among other notable races, the execrable Alan Grayson is likely to lose his seat and several prominent and long-standing Democratic leaders in the House may be witnessing their last stand. The longest serving member of Congress, Democrat John Dingell, trailed his challenger by 4 points in a recent poll. Even Democrats in solid districts, such as Minnesota’s Jim Oberstar, have looked shaky in recent polling in elections against no-name challengers. “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” All empires fall…but the Democratic empire only lasted for 2 short and controversial years. They are going to lose the House…badly. And if they retain control of the Senate it will be nominal control (a seat or two), and they’ll b e defending twice the number of seats as Republicans in 2012. I’ll address some of the reasons the Democrats have run aground this cycle in my post-mortem on the 2010 midterm elections (coming soon!). As for my House prediction, I am not as conservative in my estimate as Cook (40+) and the other national prognosticators, but neither am I as bullish as, say, Dick Morris (100+???).

– 66 House Seat Republican Pickup.
– Republican takeover of House of Representatives.
– 112th HofR: Republicans – 265 | Democrats – 191

ARKANSAS 01: Chad Causey (D) vs. Rick Crawford (R)
Open Seat
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 59%, Obama 38%

Arkansas 1 has been in the hands of Democrats for 100 years, but the exit of long-time Democratic representative Marion Berry has opened this increasingly-conservative district up for a Republican takeover. The district went strongly for McCain in 2008, but Arkansas Democrats have always done a good job of appealing to local constituencies and party ID to win state races despite the disconnect between Arkansas Democrats and the national party. The Republican wave claimed Berry early, who, Cassandra-like, predicted a midterm bloodbath for the Dems, scoffing at Obama’s assurance that a 94-wave could be staved off because the Democrats had Obama to campaign for them this year. As Berry predicted, the Left-tilt of the Democratic agenda has soured conservative Democrats and moderates on both Obama and his policies in a state that was already outside his camp to begin with. Causey is a former Berry staffer and has never served in elective office. Rick Crawford also has not served in elective office but is a former Secret Service agent and Army veteran.

PREDICTION: Crawford – Republican Pickup

ARKANSAS 02: Joyce Elliott (D) vs. Tim Griffin (R)
Open Seat
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 54%, Obama 44%

Arkansas 2 includes Little Rock city proper and thus is a bastion of support for Democrats in the state and was Obama’s best district in Arkansas. However, the district also contains significant portions of the outlying conservative central-rural Arkansas that consistently votes Republican. The midterm election contest illustrates this polarization in the general election choices. The Democrats have nominated Joyce Elliot, a Little Rock activist and former union organizer, while the Republicans have nominated Tim Griffin, a former Bush staffer, Rove confidant, and lawyer. If turnout is muted in Pulaski county (and that’s expected), then Griffin is a good candidate to pick up the seat of retiring congressman Vic Snyder. Snyder, like Berry, is a victim of the Republican wave and the unpopularity of Obama’s policies in Arkansas.

PREDICTION: Griffin – Republican Pickup

ARKANSAS 03: David Whitaker (D) vs. Steve Womack (R)
Open Seat
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 64%, Obama 34%

The third congressional district in Arkansas is currently held by John Boozeman, who is bidding to leave the lower branch of the legislature in his senatorial challenge of incumbent Blanche Lincoln. While open seats are traditionally vulnerable, the demographics of this Northwest district and the Republican wave suggest this race will almost certainly stay in Republican hands. Womack has plenty of cash on hand ($550K) while Whitaker hasn’t broken the $50K mark, according to the New York Times. There are few sure things, but this seat staying Republican is about as sure a thing as there is in politics.

PREDICTION: Womack – Republican Hold

ARKANSAS 04: Mike Ross (D) vs. Beth Anne Rankin (R)
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 58%, Obama 39%

Mike Ross is exactly the kind of Democrat that Arkansas has been sending to the national legislature for the past century. Ross is a recognized leader of the moderate wing of the House (Blue Dogs), and has been re-elected easily since taking the seat in 2000. Ross has a campaign war chest in excess of $1mil and Rankin, a former Miss Arkansas, trails badly ($140K). Despite the presidential vote in the district, the Republican wave is unlikely to reach the shore of Arkansas’s fourth district. Ross should win re-election handily.

PREDICTION: Ross – Democratic Hold

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Funniest Political Ad of 2010?

Friday, 15. October 2010 13:47

You make the call. Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco seat is naturally quite safe, but this Republican buisnessman has lanuched an amusing, if not credible, campaign to unseat her.

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Vegas vs. Voting Machines

Friday, 15. October 2010 13:17

Hmmm. A cautionary note on electronic voting machines:

Vegas v. Voting

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Time-Lapsed Map of Every Nuke Explosion

Friday, 15. October 2010 5:43

Every Nuke. Since Ever. Cool. D.GOOCH

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2010 Midterm Predictions – GOVERNORS

Thursday, 7. October 2010 15:33

OK, here are the Governors. I predict 10 Republican pickups in November for the Republicans. My toughest pick is Whitman, as California seems an impossible task for Republicans at the state-wide office level. Still…waves have been underestimated before. Enjoy!

CALIFORNIA: Jerry Brown (D) vs. Meg Whitman (R)
Open Seat

In an anti-incumbent year, it is fascinating to see a fossil like Jerry Brown polling ahead of the challenger (current AG, former governor decades ago). It’s unclear how much Whitman is hurt by current Republican Governor, “the Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger and his anemic approval rating, but Whitman has fallen behind in recent weeks. The “October Surprise” was sprung early by Gloria Allred, alleging Whitman once hired an illegal immigrant…though it is clear exactly what Whitman did wrong (the illegal used false documents and was hired through a hiring agency, Whitman fired her in 2009 when she admitted to being an illegal). Still, the merits of the case may not matter if it hurts Whitman with the large California Hispanic population. Whitman has poured a ton of her own money into the race, making it the most expensive non-presidential campaign in history. Brown has going for him that California has become one of the bluer states on the map. Again we have a choice between PID & wave…I’ll go wave.

PREDICTION: Whitman – Republican Hold

FLORIDA: Alex Sink (D) vs. Rick Scott (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Brown +2.9

In one of the several successful Tea Party insurgent primary campaigns t his season, Rick Scott unseated the favored establishment Republican Bill McCollum for the Republican nomination to fill the seat vacated by former Republican and current governor, Charlie Crist. Sink had to fight off an independent challenge from the son of Lawton Childs, but since has been in a see-saw battle with Rick Scott for the polling lead. While Scott initially trailed post-primary, he has inched ahead in recent polling. His outsider status, Tea Party bonafides, and the Republican wave seem to have made up for his weaknesses as a billionaire former health care executive. The state leans Republican and it’s a Republican year.

PREDICTION: Scott – Republican Hold

MINNESOTA: Tom Horner (I) vs. Mark Dayton (D) vs. Tom Emmer (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Dayton +5.2

Minnesota was a progressive state even when it was electing Republicans regularly. Still, the Democrats have failed to win a governor’s race here since 1986. The RCP average is skewed by some questionable local paper polls…the major firms have this race within the margin of error. Independents have played spoiler before (Hi, Al!). Emmer seeks to replace popular governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. While the state has given us some quirky pols, this year we’ll get the expected.

PREDICTION: Emmer – Republican Hold

ILLINOIS: Pat Quinn (D) vs. Bill Brady (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Brady +2.0

On the one hand, you have the stink of corruption emanating from the impeached and prosecuted former Democratic governor Rod Blagoiovich. Quinn was his Lt. Governor (nuff said). On the other hand you have a state that has been solidly blue for years and increasingly non-competitive at the state level…till 2010. Put it together and you have a recipe for a close race. Polling has been all over the place (PPP – Brady + 7; Suffolk Univ. – Quinn + 6) depending on how they filter their likely voters. Illinois is set to give the Republicans a try, I think, electing a Republican governor and senator this term.

PREDICTION: Brady – Republican Pickup

OHIO: Ted Strickland (D) vs. John Kasich (R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Kasich +4.2

The Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008 were nowhere more apparent than in the Buckeye state, where the traditional Republican stronghold (modern day swing state) gave way to several Democratic state-wide office holders. Those days are long gone. Ohio has shed jobs and population during Strickland’s term, and his approval rating has reflected it. Kasich’s relationship with Lehman Brothers might have been a stumbling block in another year, but no poll has shown Kasich behind Strickland in a month.

PREDICTION: Kasich – Republican Pickup

PENNSYLVANIA: Dan Onorato (D) vs. Tom Corbett (R)
Open Seat

Minnesota has switched parties after 8 years of one party in the governor’s mansion every 8 years since 1954. 2010 doesn’t look like any exception, as Corbett has lead Onorato from day one and his lead has only widened. Former governor, Ed Rendell, was popular from most of his two terms (2002), but the bad economy has seen his popularity shift. Like several traditional blue states (i.e. Massachusetts, New Jersey), this swing state but blue-trending (in recent years) looks to seat a couple of Republicans in state-wide offices this year.

PREDICTION: Corbett – Republican Pickup

MASSACHUSETTS: Tim Cahill (I) vs. Deval Patrick (D) vs. Charles Baker (R)
Democratic Incumbent
RCP AVG: Patrick +4.7

Massachusetts shocked the world earlier this year when it elected Scott Brown, a moderate Republican, to the seat held by Ted Kennedy for 50 years. Deval Patrick has borne the brunt of a sluggish Massachusetts economy and the exit of jobs from the automobile manufacturing centers, seeing his approval rating dip into the low 30’s at one point. He looked extremely vulnerable early in the year, but then Cahill filed as an independent and split the anti-Patrick vote. Patrick now has a chance, but independents tend to poll better than they tend to do on election day. If Cahill just nets 5%, then we have a dead heat between Patrick and Baker.

PREDICTION: Baker – Republican Pickup

MARYLAND: Martin O’Malley (D) vs. Bob Ehrlich (R)
Democratic Incumbent
RCP AVG: O’Malley +8.3

Waves have to break somewhere. Maryland looks to buck the national trend, despite having an unpopular Democratic incumbent whose very unpopular tax hike has hurt him at the polls. This race features a re-match with former governor Bob Ehrlich. While the race polled close in the summer months, it seems that the Democratic advantage in this blue stronghold has reasserted itself. Ehrlich, as a former incumbent, doesn’t have a hook into the anti-establishment fervor animating the Tea Parties.

PREDICTION: O’Malley – Democratic Hold

NEW MEXICO: Diane Denish (D) vs. Susana Martinez (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Martinez +8.3

New Mexico has traditionally been Democratic at the state level, with the Republicans not controlling the legislature since 1920. The two term run of the Democrats in the governor’s mansion should end in 2010. While Bill Richardson was popular for most of his 8 year terms as New Mexico governor, scandal along with a bad economy saw Richardson score approval ratings that began with a ‘2’…and that has undoubtedly been a drag on his Lt. Governor’s effort to succeed him. Though the race polled closely initially, Martinez has opened up a lead well outside the margin of error.

PREDICTION: Martinez – Republican Pickup

OREGON: John Kitzhaber (D) vs. Chris Dudley (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Dudley +3.4

The longest Republican losing streak in gubernatorial races is in the state of Oregon. Even when it was electing Republicans, Oregon was a bastion of progressivism. With progressives now thoroughly ensconced in the Democratic coalition, Oregon is a reliable state for the donkeys. But the Republican wave looks like it will reach even Oregon, as Dudley, the former NBA star, has consistently lead his Democratic opponent in polling for the governorship. The current governor is very unpopular, and the Democrats are running a retread.

PREDICTION: Dudley – Republican Pickup


– ARKANSAS: Beebe (D) – Democratic Hold
– COLORADO: Hickenlooper (D) – Democratic Hold
– NEW YORK: Cuomo (D) – Democratic Hold
– CONNECTICUT: Malloy (D) – Democratic Pickup
– HAWAII: Abercrombie (D) – Democratic Pickup
– NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lynch (D) – Democratic Hold
– RHODE ISLAND: Chafee (I) – Independent
– VERMONT: Dubie (R) – Republican Hold
– GEORGIA: Deal (R) – Republican Hold
– MAINE: LePage (R) – Republican Pickup
– TEXAS: Perry (R) – Republican Hold
– WISCONSIN: Walker (R) – Republican Pickup
– ARIZONA: Brewer (R) – Republican Hold
– IOWA: Brandstad (R) – Republican Pickup
– MICHIGAN: Snyder (R) – Republican Pickup
– NEVADA: Sandoval (R) – Republican Hold
– SOUTH CAROLINA: Haley (R) – Republican Hold

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We Didn’t Start the Fire! – A Free Rider Problem

Wednesday, 6. October 2010 9:50

A brief synopsis of the facts from the local media coverage:

So what should have the fire fighters done? Let’s think about it in game theoretic terms. If the fire fighters put out fires for homes where the owners haven’t paid the fees…why should you pay the fee? Wouldn’t the logic then be to not pay the fee (and if you have a fire…well, they’ll put it out anyway). The fees, of course, pay for the fire fighting service to begin with. Without the fee…do you lose the fire fighting service altogether? IOW, is this a tragedy of the commons situation? Paul Krugman argues this is akin to denying medical services to someone because they don’t have insurance. Dan Foster sees this as analogous to the preconditions issue with respect to Obamacare:

The counterargument is, of course, that this kind of system only works if there are consequences for opting out. For the firefighters to have put out the blaze would have opened up a big moral hazard and generated a bunch of future free-riding — a lot like how the ban on denying coverage based on preexisting conditions, paired with penalties under the individual mandate that are lower than the going premiums, would lead to folks waiting until they got sick to buy insurance.

Still, Foster thinks the firefighters decision to let it burn was morally problematic.

Of course, the opt-in service was actually a new policy…the previous policy was that there was no fire service for the rural areas. IOW, under the previous policy, the fire department wouldn’t have answered either call (the home owner or the neighbor)…but since the neighbor paid his fee he got the benefit of the service he paid for.

Question to contemplate — Is fire service a non-excludable public good?

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2010 Midterm Election Predictions – SENATE

Tuesday, 5. October 2010 15:00

OK, I’m going to run through the big Senate and Governor’s races as well as make a ball-park estimate as to the number of seats the Republicans will pick up in the House (preview: alot). I’ll start with the Senate. My pre-election prediction is a net 11 seat pickup for the Republicans and a takeover of the majority from the Democrats. They will also knock off a memeber of the Democratic leadership in Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. Good night for the Elephants.

NEVADA: Harry Reid (D) vs. Sharron Angle (R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Reid + .06%

Reid was considered a dead duck in January, but the unexpected win of the Tea Partier, Sharron Angle, seemed to resurrect Reid from the dead. He has consistently polled slightly ahead of her, but has never approached 50%. Given his near complete name-recognition, this isn’t a good sign for the Senate majority leader. Most recent poll has Angle up by 3.

PREDICTION: Angle – Republican Pickup

ARKANSAS: Blanche Lincoln (D) vs. John Boozeman (R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Boozeman +19

This race was set in stone last year when Lincoln chose to help spearhead Obama’s health care proposal despite strong opposition to it in her state. Lincoln has never earned strong support from Arkansans and she has looked vulnerable before. But this seat is as much a sure thing as there is in politics. The DNC pulled advertising months ago, which says it all.

PREDICTION: Boozeman – Republican Pickup

COLORADO: Michael Bennett (D) vs. Ken Buck (R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Buck +4.4

Colorado has become quite the swing state with its influx of immigrants to compliment the blue strongholds of Denver vs. the red bastion of Colorado Springs. If 2010 is a wave election, then Colorado should be swinging Republican and it is. Buck, despite some concerns over his Tea Party background, has held a steady and consistent lead over the Democratic Incumbent.

PREDICTION: Buck – Republican Pickup

ILLINOIS: Alexi Giannoulias (D) vs. Mark Kirk (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Kirk +1.2

In a state that has prosecuted its last three governors and is famous for its political corruption, it is hardly surprising that both senate candidates in Illinois have been damaged by political scandal. If the scandals cancel each other out then Kirk may win on turnout. Still, this has been a steadily trending blue state for several decades.

PREDICTION: Kirk – Republican Pickup

WASHINGTON: Patty Murray (D) vs. Dino Rossi (R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Murray + 3.3

Dino Rossi is quite familiar with the old saw: “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Rossi has been in several close contests in statewide elections in Washington for governor, and lost them all (well, he *may* have lost them all…some controversy over one of those). Is third time the charm for Rossi? Murray has never been a particularly popular senator in Washington…but you don’t have to be when you have a D after your name in this solidly blue state. Wave versus party ID? I’ll go wave for this one.

PREDICTION: Rossi – Republican Pickup

WEST VIRGINIA: Joe Manchin (D) vs. John Raese(R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Raese +4.0

The Byrd seat, this was supposed to be a shoe-in for the Democrats, with uber-popular sitting governor Manchin on the ballot and a tradition of going Democratic well ensconced in West Virginians. But apparently West Virginians like him in the job he currently is…or more likely are so disillusioned with Obama that they are voting R for a vote against the Obama agenda.

PREDICTION: Raese – Republican Pickup

KENTUCKY: Jack Conway (D) vs. Rand Paul (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Raese +6.7

Sharron Angle is probably the perfect issues candidate for Kentucky and Rand Paul the same for Nevada. Unfortunately for both of them, they are running in the other’s best state. Paul lacks the social conservative bonafides of a normal Kentucky Republican and his libertarianism is out of step with the Kentucky electorate. That said, Paul is a Republican running in a Republican year and he has anti-incumbent bonafides (Tea Party) in a very anti-establishment year. Paul has polled consistently ahead of Conway.

PREDICTION: Paul – Republican Hold

MISSOURI: Robin Carnahan (D) vs. Roy Blunt (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Blunt +5.5

Missouri has been a swing state for a decade now, going for Bush in 2000 & 2004, and McCain (just barely) in 2008. Statewide races, however, have seen a more bipartsan result and have also been hotly contested. This race has two dynastical political families in Missouri squaring off, and thus the Tea Party furor has been muted. That said, the fact that Blunt has polled consistently ahead indicates this is undoubtedly a Republican year.

PREDICTION: Blunt – Republican Hold

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Paul Hodes (D) vs. Kelly Ayotte (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Ayotte + 10.

What makes you a Tea Partier? Ayotte is more of an establishment figure, but she received the Palin nod despite a claimed-Tea Party opponent in the race. Unlike Delaware, the Republicans got their best general election candidate in a narrow primary victory. That basically sowed up this race.

PREDUCTION: Ayotte – Republican Hold

PENNSYLVANIA: Joe Sestak (D) vs. Pat Toomey (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Toomey 6.9+

To show how far the tides have turned, one need look no further than Pennsylvania. Toomey was considered unelectable 6 years ago, with Republican establishment figures backing Spector, the nominal Republican in the primary. Toomey lost that battle but seems to have won the war. Unable to poll close to Toomey, Spector switched parties. That didn’t save him, as he was ousted in the primaries in favor of Joe Sestak. Sestak’s deal on Obamacare is probably not sitting well with Pennsylvania voters.

PREDICTION: Toomey – Republican Pickup

WISCONSIN: Russ Feingold (D) vs. Ron Johnson (R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Johnson 9.0+

Feingold has always been a little too far Left for even progressive Wisconsin, but just a few months ago he was considered a shoe-in for re-election. Those days are long gone. Feingold has trailed Johnson for 6 weeks and the leads across most polls are well beyond the margin of error.

PREDICTION: Johnson – Republican Pickup

CALIFORNIA: Barbara Boxer (D) vs. Carly Fiorina(R)
Democrat Incumbent
RCP AVG: Boxer 6.1+

If the Republican wave is a tidal wave, this race will tell the tale. While Boxer has outpolled Fiorina well outside the margin of error the past few weeks, she still can’t get close to 50%. No senator leading by 6 in the polls a month out has ever lost…so mark this one up as my big upset call. Fiorina by a nose.

PREDICTION: Fiorina – Republican Pickup

DELAWARE: Chris Coons (D) vs. Christine O’Donnell (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Coons 15.7+

The Tea Party has mostly been a positive force within the Republican Party’s coalition, but there are exceptions to every rule. The polls told the tale on this race long ago – O’Donnell was a 15 point loser while Castle was a 15 point winner over the Democratic candidate (who was supposed to be a sacrificial lamb to Castle). Despite this, Republican primary voters chose O’Donnell. With several mini scandals surrounding her candidacy she hasn’t made any progress since winning the primary. Count this one as an own-goal for the Republicans.

PREDICTION: Coons – Democratic Hold

CONNECTICUT: Richard Blumenthal (D) vs. Linda McMahon (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Blumenthal +8.0

Blumenthal was considered a shoe-in to replace the scandal-ridden Chris Dodd, but he stumbled out of the blocks with a “Stolen Honor” scandal related to his Veitnam era (as opposed to proper) service. While Linda McMahon has gobs of money…she is still the wife of Vince McMahon and likely more associated with the WWE than the Republican party. Blumenthal seems to have weathered the storm, though a few polls have this race within the margin.

PREDICTION: Blumenthal – Democratic Hold

FLORIDA: Charlie Crist (I) vs. Kendrick Meek (D) vs. Marco Rubio (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Rubio 10+

No race better exemplifies this election cycle than the Florida senate race. Marco Rubio was counted out before he even started when Charlie Crist, the moderate incumbent Republican governor, announced for the race. Rubio turned a 20 point deficit into a 10 point lead, causing Crist to drop out of the Republican Party to run as an independent. While Crist initially polled well in the 3-man race (before the Democratic primary), Rubio has since taken a commanding lead. In the battle between Downs and Durverger, the Frenchman takes this round.

PREDICTION: Rubio – Republican Hold

ALASKA: Lisa Murkowski (I) vs. Scott McAdams (D) vs. Jim Miller (R)
Republican Incumbent
RCP AVG: Miller +5

Charlie Crist seemed like the hands-down winner of “this-is-all-about-me” politics when he ditched the Republicans and tacked Left in his independent bid in Florida. But Lisa Murkowski takes the prize. No animating purpose behind her baffling decision to run as a write-in (hint: write-ins don’t win in most places…particularly not Alaska) exists and she is unlikely to defeat Miller in a general election campaign in a red state and without her name even appearing on the ballot. Republicans decided not to strip her of her seniority in the Senate, but that likely had nothing to do with her chances. While Murkowski may get a few Democrat protest votes she isn’t going to win.

PREDICTION: Miller – Republican Hold

OHIO: Lee Fisher (D) vs. Rob Portman (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Portman 13.8+

A series of scandals tarnished the Republican Party in this traditional Republican stronghold but definitely modern swing state. Several state-wide races went to Democrats in 2006 and 2008. But the scandal-ridden Democratic governor proved that corruption is bipartisan and it’s a Republican year. This state would seem to be quite open to the Tea Party message, and they got a Tea-Party backed Republican candidate in Rob Portman.

PREDICTION: Portman – Republican Hold

NEW YORK: Kristen Gillibrand (D) vs. Joe DioGuardi (R)
Open Seat
RCP AVG: Gillibrand 10.8+

Gillibrand is a weak candidate and some polls have had this race close in recent days. But Republican Tsunami or no, New York is still New York. DioGuardi has been behind by double digits in most polls and it is hard to see an upset coming here.

PREDICTION: Gillibrand – Democratic Hold

Louisiana is a Republican Hold, Oregon is a Democratic Hold, and North Dakota and Indiana are Republican Pickups with Hoven taking the Dorgan seat in ND and Coats taking the Evan Bayh seat back.

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