How Presidential vote understimates Dem Voting Strength

An interesting study. Bumped--Chris

I loathe when I hear Democrats dismiss candidate's chances in a  district citing the Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index).  The Cook PVI systematically and severely understimates base Democratic performane in rural areas. For too long, the blogosphere has been beholden to the bias created as an artifact of the manner in which the Cook Report operationalizes partisanship. First let's take a look at how the Cook PVI is constructed.

The index for each congressional district is derived by averaging the presidential election results in that district from the prior two elections, then comparing them to how the nation voted as a whole. The index indicates the more successful political party and how many percentage points higher than the national average for that party. It is published as a Letter+Number combination.

So the basis by which the Cook PVI determines partisanship for Congressional races is by using Presidential vote.  The results of this are highly detrimental Democrats running in rural areas, because it makes what is often an entirely winnable district look impossible.  Let's look at how Ohio looks if you use presidential vote as a measure of partisanship.

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'Twas the Night before Election Day

`Twas the Night before E- Day when all through the nation
Last campaign ads were playing on every station

The volunteers bundled door hangers with care
In hopes that victory soon would be theirs

D-trippers* were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of majority danced in their heads

The DS* was hopeful, the DGA*, too
And in just a few hours, the country turned blue

Because the Republican culture of corruption
Would not get past voters without interruption

Away to the polls they flew in a tizzy
In many precincts, polls workers were dizzy

The electorate wanted new course in Iraq
For us to think twice before we attack

With Northeastern moderate Republicans gone
Democratic takeover, a conclusion forgone

Some screamed, "Security! High taxes! Abortions!"
But voters would not listen to crazy distortions

Republicans would pay for their dirty tricks:
30 seats in the House and in the Senate, six!

In Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Montana
In Iowa, Virginia, Connecticut, and Indiana

Congress had made the voters' skin crawl
"Get out of Washington! Away with you all!"

How did this happen that Congress changed hands?
And Dems won races in many red lands?

Bush tried to mess with Social Security
And foreign affairs approached obscurity

In Terri Schiavo's case, right-to-die
The people saw Uncle Sam gone awry

After botching response to Hurricane Katrina
They surrendered to Dems the right to subpoena

And Delay, Ted Haggard, Bob Ney, Mark Foley
All this from the party that claimed to be holy!

While many YouTube "Macaca" moments
Proved detrimental to several incumbents

And with their policies on immigration
They gave up Latinos for a generation

Likewise, his stem-cell research hard line,
Made Bush watch his popularity decline

Republican members, one by one rejected
While throughout the country, all Dems re-elected

With Reid and Pelosi, a woman Speaker, a first
We're sure to see Republican damage reversed

After the January power transition
They'll take the advice of the 9/11 commission

Corruption and wastefulness are out the door
And handouts for Big Oil companies no more

For seniors, we will see lower drug prices
For students, loan rates reduced a few slices

A minimum wage hike, in the first 100 hours
All possible now that Congress is ours

From the new electeds, we're sure to see progress
"Congratulations to all and to all a good Congress!"

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An Enduring Call for Change

Sometimes elections are about election day -- even though they will decide the direction of the country for the next two years they merely reflect the state of the nation on one day rather than a more permanent sentiment. The 1976 presidential election was a great example of this, with some scholars holding the belief that if the election were held just one or two weeks later that Gerald Ford, who had the late-breaking momentum, could have defeated Jimmy Carter, whose 30- to 40-point lead from July had all but dissapated by the time voters went to the polls that November 2nd. In other years, the race nationwide is in effect tied going into election day and the results, while certainly reflective of the organizing and advertising of the campaigns, might nonetheless have gone the other direction were the election held a few days earlier or later.

This election, however, was not an example of this. Not by a long shot. Almost from day one of George W. Bush's second term voters exhibited buyer's remorse. Taking a look at the Pollster.com presidential approval trend graph, President Bush's approval rating dipped below 50 percent in February or March of 2005 and has not moved north of that mark since. In fact, since the President's approval rating dropped below 45 percent around July, it also has not topped that mark, hitting highs in the low 40s twice but generall remaining in the 30s for the rest of his second term.

And not only have voters generally disapproved of the President; adter all, it's certainly possible for a leader to have low approval ratings but still enjoy a governing mandate. On issue after issue, whenever the President has tried to push a major piece of legislation, from partially privatizing Social Security to instituting a major tax reform to continuing his current policy in Iraq, he has been largely rebuffed by voters -- so much so that many of his Republican allies in Congress have been unwilling to go to bat for him any more for fear of being defeated (as many, in the end, were).

So when voters marked their ballots on November 7, it perhaps should not have come as a surprise (even though I and many others nonetheless harbored some trepidation going into election day) that they did so overwhelmingly for the Democrats, handing them control of the House and Senate, and new majorities of governorships and state legislatures.

But this was not just about election day. Yesterday proved that as former Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, who had lost his last two elections and had received just about 20 percent of the vote on November 7, handily defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla. This wasn't a small and meaningless happening. It was the culmination of several months, if not years, of disgust with President Bush and the Republican Party. It was confirmation that Americans were demanding change.

So the Republicans remaining in office furing the 110th Congress ought to be concerned. Even in generally Republican districts in generally Republican states they still have the capacity to be defeated. For this reason, I would not be shocked to see one or two Republicans -- or even more -- drop their party registration and start caucusing with Democrats in Congress to help stave off any permanent and lasting trends within the electorate. I'm not talking about a dozen Senators and Congressmen, but just enough to send a signal both to Congress and the American people that they understand that the Republican Party -- its policies, tactics and ideals -- have been thoroughly rejected. At that point, the move that began back in the beginning of 2005 and continued through November 7 and December 12 would be even more strongly cemented.

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Fighting Dem Documentary: Discovery's "Taking the Hill"

Last week I saw a partial screening (55 minutes) of  one of the best political documentary films I've ever seen, "Taking the Hill".  The final product (90 minutes) airs on the Discovery Times Channel this Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 9:00 EST.  Discovery Times is available on most digital & satellite cable systems.

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PA: The Democrats Win Another Statehouse!

Pennsylvania's days as a Swing State are over; today the Keystone State is solid blue. Not only did Democrats defeat four incumbent GOP congressmen in the state, but today Democrats won the final State House recount to regain control of the State house. Congratulations to Dem Leader William DeWeese and the new Democratic majority in the PA State House!

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