CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

In response to kos and others, I feel it is important for me to point out something about the partisan leanings of the CA-50 in order to keep my head form exploding. Yes, as everyone likes to say, Kerry pulled 43.9% in this district in 2004, giving the 50th a national partisan index of RNC +9.9. Supposedly, because Kerry hit 43.9% in CA-50, Busby is doing poorly unless she is above that line herself. However, in a district that is clearly in transition, the national partisan index is not the appropriate benchmark. This district is filled with RINOs, who are trending for Democrats in national elections, but still voting heavily for local Republicans ("their" type of Republicans). This is a voting phenomenon common to many areas in transition, where local partisans abandon the national manifestations of their party first, but cling to the local manifestations of their party for a much longer period of time (see this map of state legislatures in the South if you are unconvinced by this argument). Notice, for example, how Democrats in the South first began voting for Republican Presidential nominees like Goldwater and Nixon while they will still sending Democrats to Congress in droves. While Democrats lost hold of the "solid south" in Presidential elections once and for all in 1980, it was not until the 1994 landslide that the south stopped sending a majority Democratic delegation to Congress. For any district in transition, the Presidential swing will always happen first. Local elections, including congressional elections, will take much longer.

To develop a better sense of why 44% is a very good total for Busby in the primary, and why being tied in the latest poll is also good news, look not at the presidential partisan indexes, but at more local partisan indexes in CA-50. In 2004, the Senate partisan index in this district was RNC +19.9, ten points higher than the presidential index. In the 2003 Gubernatorial election, it was RNC +25.6, more than fifteen points above the Presidential partisan index. In the 2002 Gubernatorial election, it was RNC +23.2, thirteen points above the Presidential partisan index. Republicans also have a 14.8% advantage in party registration in this district. Given these numbers, Busby's current performance in an even more local election is not bad at all. In fact, a 45-43 Bilbray "lead" indicates a swing of anywhere form 6.5% Democratic to 11.8% Democratic in this district. That is hardly "terrible."

Swallowing the Kerry performance in this district as the appropriate target for Busby is exactly what Republicans want. However, it simply is not accurate. Local and national partisan voting tendencies are not identical, as anyone with a campaign background can tell you. It does not take a lot of research to discover that the local partisan indexes in CA-50 a much more favorable to Republicans than the national partisan indexes. We ignore that research and accept Republican spin on this election at our own peril.

Tags: CA-50, House 2006, partisan index (all tags)

Comments

23 Comments

Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

All well and good, but doesn't your analysis avoid a central problem?  In a head to head match up, she is pulling less than 50%, and intuitively, it would seeem that the undecides will break more Red than Blue.

It would be interesting to look at the partisan breakdown of the undecides to get a better sense of what her expected yield might be.

by RickM 2006-04-25 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

You are missing the point of Chris's post and what he is pushing back against.  Kos and others are arguing that this poll is bad news for us because Busby is below what Kerry got.  The bottom line is that Busby should not be anywhere near 43%.  

The Rs should not have had to dump in $800k into this special election.  We are already ahead in this regard.  Last I heard the DCCC put in $100k and the netroots $55k.  If she moves up a couple of points that would be fantastic.  If she actually miraculously wins then it would be amazing.

by juls 2006-04-25 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

Very interesting -- but is San Diego to Republicans what the South was to Democrats??

I'm not saying your theory is wrong -- I just need to be persuaded that the trend is similarly working our way in that direction.

How did Bush do in that district in 2000?? Dole in 1996??  Bush Sr. in 1992??

If you're right, it's really exciting to see districts that will (eventually) trend our way the way that we have been gradually losing the South over the years.  What type of districts are they??  What type of demographics??  Because if what you're saying is true, this could be a new emerging Democratic realignment.  

by Paul Hogarth 2006-04-25 03:21PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

I'm sorry, but I disagree.  My bottom line isn't "doing better than she should," nor is it "doing almost as well as Kerry."  My bottom line is winning.  I thought Busby's best shot at that was in the Special with a divided and disheartened Republican vote and low turnout, and she didn't come close to taking it.  I think her chances in the Runoff, simultaneous with the Primary, are much poorer.  And I don't care how close she comes to winning - I care which side of winning she falls on.

by carlmanaster 2006-04-25 04:16PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

You are ignoring the effect of expectations, which is what Chris' post is about.  If you think she is doomed because she isn't above Kerry 6 weeks before the election, you won't contribute or volunteer or both.  You will whine at people talking up the race as an important bellwether for the November election, which is 6 MONTHS out.  And if she doesn't win (but comes within 2%, like Hackett), you will moan and say the Dems are doomed so let's all pull the covers over our head or take a bullet.

The R's confidently predict victory all the way to the end.  Sometimes it is BS, but they just go on smiling.  Acting like winners will get you there faster than whining.  

by Mimikatz 2006-04-26 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

Aren't you contradicting yourself a little, Chris? Are you backing off your assertion that Busby must win to signal a wave election? Not criticizing, just wondering ...

by BriVT 2006-04-25 05:05PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks
No, I still stand by that. Maybe a 1% would still signal a change election, but bascially I beleive that if she does not win, we could still be talking about control, just not about a huge, realignment wave.
by Chris Bowers 2006-04-25 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

Not necessarily.  There are 6 months left before Nov 7.  Lots can happen.

by Mimikatz 2006-04-26 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

I guess Chris is saying this is good news because it indicates that CA-50 will vote for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008? So that's good, if this district is a good indicator of how other Republican districts will vote. But I think Kos is right that Busby's performance doesn't bode well for the Democrats' chances at taking the House in November.

by MrOnion 2006-04-25 05:06PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

This district is filled with RINOs, who are trending for Democrats in national elections, but still voting heavily for local Republicans ("their" type of Republicans).

Okay, so Busby may be performing above what you think is a better metric for partisan performance. That and a token will get you on the subway - and they don't even accept tokens in New York anymore.

Sorry for the snark, but Busby's out-performance of various other partisan indices doesn't help her win. If you want to read it as a signal that her out-performance means we are likely to out-perform elsewhere, okay. I hope you are right.

But if you're willing to do that, then you have to acknowledge that she's raised $1.5m and is running in a district where the former congressman is now rotting in jail for bribery. Those are not circumstances we'll see repeated in many districts.

by DavidNYC 2006-04-25 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks
I'm not denying any of that. I still think she needs to win in order to signal a wave. But if she doesn't win, we could still be talking about taking narrow control.

We also won't see $5M for the Republican candidate(s) replicated in many districts either.
by Chris Bowers 2006-04-25 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

Good points.

by DavidNYC 2006-04-25 07:03PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

My concern is less with the partisan index in this particular district and more about the fact that Bilbray has quickly consolidated the Repub vote going from 15% to 45% in about 10 days.  This gives him 6 weeks to win over another 5 percent to get himself over the top in a districts whose demographics favor him.  In the meantime, Busby has picked up no new support and seems stuck at 43%.  

I know there is a Dem primary for Gov on June 6 but it is a decent bet that the people who showed up April 11  will be the same people who show up June 6.  Busby needs to win over about 7% of the people who did not vote for her on April 11 or figure out how to expand turnout.  

It is early but this is not encouraging.  I would feel much better if Bilbray were in the 30s and still working to win over the majority of the Repubs.  Unfortunately, he is not.

We can win the race but we clearly have our work cut out for us.  

by John Mills 2006-04-25 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks
I admit that he seems to have consolidated a little faster than I expected. I was expecting Busby to lead in the next poll by something like 45-41 (seriously--I have exact expectations for polls to that degree). But wait until the next poll, after the shitstorm over the ad, and after Busby's response ad, have taken place. that could change things.
by Chris Bowers 2006-04-25 06:39PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

I am encouraged by Busby's rapid response to the negative ad from the Repubs.  We need to make that standard operating procedure.  I hope it helps with the next poll.  I really want to win this race.  

by John Mills 2006-04-25 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

It is important to also realize that the goal of getting over 50% is not necessary in the June general special election for the CA 50th CD race.  That was a requirement in the April primary to avoid the June runoff.  Now it's a matter of winning a plurality of the vote though taking over 50% is ideal and indicates that the winner is less likely to succumb to a future election challenge.  Keep in mind that there are two other names on the ballot: an independent candidate and a Libertarian candidate.  So the vote is being split four ways with these two additional names

Actually, as a local, I am heartened that Bilbray's support isn't higher!  This is a man with longtime name recognition as a Republican in this historically Republican county.  If Bilbray and Busby are polling within 2 percentage points of each other (I haven't seen the poll results myself), that's unheard of here!  In this district - if you believe and listen to the conventional wisdom about it being rock-solid Republican - he should easily have consolidated over 50%, yes, this early.

I am eager to know how strong that polling support is for Bilbray.  Does that number include voters leaning towards him but not firmly decided?  Especially in light of this recent RNCC smear commercial against Busby, Bilbray is coming across in the local media as being unable or unwilling to take the RNCC on regarding this commercial which is so obviously libelous if it weren't protected as a political speech.  I wouldn't be surprised to see his support soften or fade.

From my local sense of this district, this race definitely feels like it is in play.  Especially after this commercial.  And remember that when races are neck-and-neck like this poll suggests, that's when Dems can kick butt with effective GOTV.

by Phonatic 2006-04-25 11:13PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

I feel adamant that Mrs. Busby can pull this thing off.  The fact that the district is in play at all, and the RNC significant ad buy/smear campaign is evidence enough that these fools are scared, and that's half the battle.  We've already won by making them contest solidly GOP areas like suburban San Diego. The Empire is crumbling, pass the popcorn.

by trevorwells 2006-04-25 06:37PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks
Personally, I'd rather dump loads of actiivsm into this race, if possible (like some funky absentee GOTV operation suggested by Stuart here:

What Have We Learned From Our Special Elections: CA-48, CA-50, TX-28 and One State Race?

Right now, I think we are doing great on second tier races. The more visible, first tier races are actually where we are struggling a bit. I have no porblem throwing everythin we have at this race for three or four weeks. I don't think that would count as artificial inflation either. Everyone will be throwing everything they got at every race in the fall. Light it up--let's see what we can do.
by Chris Bowers 2006-04-25 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

"of developing over 100 new nuclear bombs each year"

I support your candidacy and think Harman is a Republican plant/shill/whatever.  But you ain't gonna win outside of Cambridge or SF talking like that.  That nuclear stuff is so 70s and kinda nutty.

by jgarcia 2006-04-25 10:12PM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks


Chris,

I think your comparison of the presidential partisan index to the "local" partisan index in support of your idea that "this district is filled with RINOs, who are trending for Democrats in national elections, but still voting heavily for local Republicans" is misguided.

To calculate your presidential partisan index for CA-50, you are comparing the Bush-Kerry results from CA-50 to the national total. However, when computing the local partisan indexes, you compare the CA-50 results to the state totals.

Really, you should compare the CA-50 presidential result (K44 B55) to the CA state presidential result (K54 B44), which would give you a "local" presidential partisan index of about RNC + 21, which is right in line with the other "local" indexes.

by heathen 2006-04-26 06:32AM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

OK, I dropped the first comment on this, and maybe this will be the last.

At the end of the day, it seems that the situation is good but not great.  Last time around Busby picked up about 36% of the vote against the now disgraced Duke.  She is currently polling 43%, which is a very nice pick up.  This increase may well be what drove the RNC to dump money and a dirty ad into the race.

But the question is does she have enough support to win?  At 43% clearly not, unless there is a credible third party candidate.  And while there are noises to that effect, nothing is definite yet.

With some 8% undecideds, there are enough votes out there for Busby to win, but it seems reasonable that in order to do so, she will have to take significantly more of those undecideds than Bilbray.

No matter which partisan index you use, it looks like a stretch to expect Busby to take say 60% of the undecideds.

Hence it seems, right now, that she is going to come close, but fall short.

by RickM 2006-04-26 06:50AM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

Chris: You are doing an admirable job of keeping everyone's hopes up, but in the end, that's not the point. The Busby skeptics among us -- me included -- have all along said that sure, she has a chance. Everyone has to go right, but of course she has a chance. The point is that we are wasting our time and money on candidates with outside chances just because their elections happen to be on the calendar, while candidates with very good chances in November never get mentioned on Kos, and we never get urged to send money or volunteer. I do believe that time, effort, and especially money are zero sum resources, more for us than the RNC unfortunately. What we send Busby for what is highly likely to be a "nice try" kind of loss is money, time and effort we don't spend on an Amy Klobuchar up in Minnesota, or a Sheldon Whitehouse in RI, or a Patsy Madrid in Albuquerque. That's the frustration some of us have.

by ColoDem 2006-04-26 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: CA-50: On partisan benchmarks

Partisan index is a useless measure.  Average political performance is much better.

In Georgia, the average Democrat in a federal race has gotten about 44% in the last few years.  A district where the average Democrat gets 50% would have a +6 "index" score.  In Pennsylvania, the average Democrat has gotten about 50%.  A District where the average Democrat gets 55%, the District would only have a +5 "index" score.  

You would lead us to believe that the Georgia district is better than the Pennsylvania district, even though the Democrat in Pennsylvania has at least a 5% better shot at winning.

Political performance over time is the best indicator as to what a candidate can expect to get running an average campaign.  A district where Democrats receive 50% of the vote on average is a 50% district whether it is in Wyoming or Massachussetts.  

On November 7th, without the luxury of being an incumbent, I'd expect Busbey to get around 44% in this district.  Of course, being the incumbent can really help, as well as a national tide in your favor.  The great thing about special elections is that they are special.  You can turn 44% into 50% if you do a better job of finding your 44% than your opponent does of finding his 56%.

That's my only beef with this site.  The glorification of the meaningless index above all else.  Stick with political performance for election analysis, it's much more relevant and easier to compare one district to another reglardess of state or year of election.

by chrisishardcore 2006-05-29 06:19PM | 0 recs

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