Analyzing the 2010 Midterm Elections – the Colorado Senate Election

This is a part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections. This post will analyze the Colorado Senate election, one of the few Democratic victories that night. In this election,  Democrat Michael Bennett narrowly defeated Republican Ken Buck.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Colorado’s Senate Election

The results of the Colorado Senate election, like many other elections throughout 2010, closely matched the results of President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election. In fact, this senate election may have followed Mr. Obama’s performance more closely than any other election in 2010:

Only one county switched hands from 2008 to 2010: rural Chaffee County, which Senator Bennet won by a mere 44 votes.

This indicates that Colorado is a fairly polarized state. Its Republican parts go heavily Republican; its Democratic parts go heavily Democratic. Democratic candidate Michael Bennett did a full 7.3 percentage points worse than Mr. Obama, yet didn’t lose a single county that Mr. Obama won.

Notice too that both Mr. Bennett and Mr. Obama carve out a “C” of counties that they win in the middle of the state. When Democrats are able to do this, they generally win. When Republicans make inroads into the “C,” Republicans generally win. Republican candidate Ken Buck failed to make the necessary inroads into this territory, which is why he lost.

The Suburbs

Why did Mr. Bennett do so much worse than Mr. Obama?

Let's take a look at Mr. Obama's coalition first:

(Note: Because the Times stopped updating before all absentee/provisional ballots were counted, this map does not fully reflect the actual results. I have corrected the discrepancy.)

In 2008, Mr. Obama won Colorado by 9.0%. Interestingly, Colorado was the most important swing state that year. If Mr. Obama had lost all the states he did worse in than Colorado, he would have still won the election. But if he had lost all those states and Colorado, Senator John McCain would be president.

As this map shows, the Democrats get their votes from Boulder and Denver. Republicans get their votes from Colorado Springs and the rural areas. Take a particular look at the smaller blue circles around Denver. These are Denver’s suburbs, swing territory which Mr. Obama does quite well in. Also note the smaller red circle to the upper-left of Colorado Springs (Douglas County). Although it doesn’t look like it in this map, Douglas County is a Republican stronghold. Mr. Obama does remarkably well there, which is why the Republican margin of victory is so small.

Now let's move to the 2010 Senate election

(Note: Because the Times stopped updating before all absentee/provisional ballots were counted, this map does not fully reflect the actual results. I have corrected the discrepancy.)

In 2010 Mr. Bennett does a bit worse than Mr. Obama in the Denver suburbs; his margins are much smaller. Republican Ken Buck also is able to win Douglas County by a more normal margin for a Republican. The reason why Mr. Bennett does worse than Mr. Obama is mainly because of his weaker performance in the Denver suburbs.

Crucially, however, Democratic candidate Michael Bennett still wins the suburbs. Had he lost them, Colorado would today have a Republican senator.

Rural Colorado

A very interesting fact is revealed if one compares the shift of Colorado from 2008 to 2010:

This map illustrates that shift. Red counties became more Republican from 2008 to 2010; blue counties became more Democratic. This does not necessarily mean that a county which shifted Republican voted for the Republican (or vice versa). For instance, Denver shifted Republican from 2008 to 2010, but it still voted strongly Democratic in both elections.

Curiously, Democratic candidate Michael Bennett did better than Mr. Obama in a lot of Colorado’s most Republican areas. He improved substantially in the sparsely populated, strongly Republican rural counties – in particular the eastern part of the state. Mr. Bennett was involved in education in Denver before the election, so he has no local connection to rural Colorado.

There are several possibilities on why this happened. It seems that in presidential elections Republican areas vote more strongly Republican, and vice versa for Democratic areas. The map above could have been due to Republican and Democratic strongholds being less partisan during mid-term elections.

Another possibility is that the third-party vote had something to do with it. Neither candidate in 2010 was able to reach 50% of the vote, meaning that the third-party vote was relatively strong. If a third-party candidate takes a significant share of the vote, then mathematically Democrat margins will decrease in Democratic areas, and Republican margins will decrease in Republican areas.

Then there is the hypothesis that the president was a bad fit for rural Republican Colorado. He might have therefore have done worse than the average Democrat. Intuitively this explanation makes sense; Mr. Obama is not the type of person who appeals to rural Republicans.

Conclusions

One always must be careful to say that a particular state is trending for one party or the other. Nevertheless, the result of the 2010 senate election does seem to indicate that Colorado is moving Democratic.

2010 was the worst year in a generation for Democrats; Democrats throughout the country lost elections. In Colorado, a state that Bill Clinton lost in 1996, one would have expected Republican candidate Ken Buck to win.

Mr. Buck was admittedly a weaker-than-average candidate; he made some mistakes on abortion and the 17th Amendment. Yet, on the other hand, Mr. Buck was relatively untainted by scandal. He wasn’t obviously crazy, and he didn’t do stupid things like tell a bunch of Latino students that they looked Asian. In addition, the Democratic candidate Michael Bennett wasn’t a very exciting candidate. He doesn’t inspire passion amongst Democrats; most people still have no idea who he is.

Yet Mr. Buck didn’t win – he lost to an unexciting Democratic in the best Republican year in a generation. Republicans should have won the suburbs around Denver in 2010; they were doing so everywhere else in the country. The fact that they failed to do so is a very powerful indicator of Colorado’s Democratic trend.

--inoljt

 

Weekly Audit: The Real Legacy of Reaganomics

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of B-movie actor-turned-conservative president, Ronald Wilson Reagan. On the eve of the centennial, economist Yves Smith talked Reaganomics on the Real News Network. Smith argues that Reagan’s real legacy is the deregulation of the U.S. economy that set the stage for the economic meltdown of the late 2000s:

But [with] financial services, you have companies that have state guarantees. That’s the bottom line with the banking system. Ever since the 1930s, we in advanced economies have made the decision we’re not going to let the banking system fail. So if you don’t regulate banks, you have set up the situation that we have now, which is that you have socialized losses and privatized gains. And what have we seen come out of that? Financial crises. When we had a heavily regulated financial system, we had nearly 40 years of hardly any financial crises. When we started deregulating the banks, you saw increasing in frequency and increasing in significance financial crises directly resulting from that.

Spot of Tea?

Ordinary Britons are rallying to the defense of the welfare state. Faced with the deepest public spending cuts in living memory, citizens are taking to the streets to force deadbeat companies to pay their taxes, Johann Hari reports in The Nation. Their federal government has pledged to slash £7 billion in public spending. Cuts to subsidized housing alone will force 200,000 people out of their homes.

A group of friends in a local pub were galvanized by the news that Vodafone, one of the UK’s leading mobile phone companies, owed an astonishing £6 billion in back taxes. Calling themselves UK Uncut, the friends staged a protest outside Vodafone headquarters in London. The meme went viral. In the following days, several Vodafone stores were temporarily paralyzed by peaceful sit-ins.

Hari argues that the success of UK Uncut can teach American progressives a lot about how to build a grassroots counterpart to the Tea Party.

Persistent vegetative states

Big or small, liberal or conservative, state governments are screwed. That’s the upshot of Paul Starr’s latest essay in The American Prospect. Unemployment remains at recession levels and there is little political will to raise taxes. States can’t deficit spend like the feds do. So, the only option is public service cuts, which means firing teachers, doctors, firefighters, and other public workers.

Starr argues that the economic stimulus was a good start, but one that didn’t go far enough. As part of the stimulus, the federal government picked up a larger share of the states’ Medicaid costs. This was a good thing, in Starr’s view, because the extra federal dollars saved jobs while providing health care for the poor. Starr argues that state budget woes during recessions are so predictable, and the consequences so dire, that the Medicaid subsidy should kick in automatically whenever unemployment rises past a predetermined threshold.

Anti-union bill dead in CO

A bill to end collective bargaining for public employees in Colorado died in committee this week, according to Joseph Boven of the Colorado Independent. The bill would have abolished an executive order signed by former Gov. Bill Ritter, which gave state employees the right to organize. If the bill had been enacted, this kind of organizing would become illegal. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield), was just one of many attempts by Republicans to scapegoat public sector unions for what Mitchell calls the “financial Armageddon” facing state governments.

Smurfs rob Moms

“Smurfing” is money laundering slang for recruiting a lot of low-level accomplices to move money in untraceably small increments. But the word may soon have a new derogatory connotation.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones reports that a kids’ video game, Smurfs’ Village, is depleting parents’ bank accounts, one wagon of Smurfberries at a time. Capcom’s game offers kids the chance to build the village from scratch. Along the way, they can pay real money for in-game resources. One mother was shocked to receive a $1,400 bill from Apple because her daughter bought innumerable imaginary props, such as $19 “buckets of snowflakes,” and a $100 “wagon of Smufberries.” The purchases require a password, but critics say it’s too easy for clever kids to circumvent the security. As Drum says, if adults want to waste their real dollars on virtual Farmville paraphernalia, that’s fine, but such a racket has no place in kids’ games.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Audit: GOP Plays Chicken with the Debt Ceiling

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is calling for a “big showdown” over the upcoming vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion from $13.9 trillion. The debt ceiling is simply the maximum amount the government can borrow.

Congress routinely raises the debt ceiling every year. It’s common sense: Since the government has already pledged to increase spending, Congress must authorize additional borrowing. (Remember that the government is now forced to borrow billions of extra dollars to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, which Republicans insisted on.) If the ceiling isn’t raised, the United States will be forced to default on its debts, with catastrophic consequences.

Why would default be catastrophic? The principle is the same for countries and consumers alike: If you have a good track record of paying your bills, lenders will lend you money at lower interest rates. If you don’t pay your bills on time, or default on your obligations altogether, lenders will demand higher interest rates.

Congressional Republicans say they oppose raising the debt ceiling because they favor fiscal responsibility. This kind of rhetoric is the height of recklessness. The interest on our debts is a big part of government spending. Even idle talk about defaults could spook some creditors into raising interest rates on U.S. debt and cost taxpayers dearly.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly quotes Austan Goolsbee, chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, who says that congressional GOP members are flirting with the “the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”

Making work pay (for real)

An astonishing 80% of full-time minimum wage workers can’t afford the necessities of life, according to new research by labor economist Jeannette Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute, featured on the Real News Network.

Wicks-Lim argues for a two-part solution to the crisis of working poverty in America: i) raising the federal minimum wage to $12.30/hr from $7.50/hr; ii) Increasing the earned income tax credit to 40% of income. She estimates that these two policy changes would raise the income of a minimum wage worker from $15,000 to about $36,000 at a manageable cost to employers and taxpayers.

Her proposal is a revamp of President Bill Clinton’s attempt to “reform” welfare by cutting social service benefits and shifting government spending to tax credits. Currently, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a subsidy for the working poor that is designed to “make work pay”–i.e., if workers aren’t making enough in wages to secure a decent standard of living, the government provides an income subsidy to reward them for working.

However, if a decent standard of living remains out of reach for 80% of full-time minimum wage workers, Wicks-Lim argues that the minimum wage is too low and the subsidies are too modest to achieve the stated goal of making work pay.

Colorado minimum wage inches up

Speaking of minimum wage issues, Scot Kersgaard of the Colorado Independent reports that the minimum wage in the state ticked up from $7.25 an hour to $7.36 on January 1. The modest increase represents the annual adjustment for inflation. Every bit counts, but Colorado families are falling further behind. According to a new report by the Denver-based Bell Policy Center, 8.3% of working families in Colorado live below the federal poverty line, which is $22,050 for a family of four. Fully one-fourth of Colorado families do not earn enough to meet their basic needs, which requires an income approximately twice the FPL, according to the report.

Colorado is one of only 10 states that automatically adjust their minimum wages for inflation.

Wage theft epidemic

Unscrupulous employers are stealing untold millions of dollars from hardworking Americans, Dick Meister reports in AlterNet:

The cheating bosses don’t take the money directly from their employees. No, nothing as obvious as that. The employers practice their thievery by underpaying workers, sometimes by paying them less than the legal minimum wage. Or they fail to pay employees extra for overtime work, or even force them to work for nothing before or after their regular work shifts or at other times. Some employers make illegal deductions from employee wages. And some withhold the final paycheck due employees who quit.

In New York City alone, an estimated $18 million worth of wages is stolen every week. Workers in the restaurant, construction, and retail sectors are at increased risk of wage theft. Wage thieves disproportionately target undocumented workers because they assume that these employees will be less likely to report the crime.

Debt collection from beyond the grave

The dead don’t tell tales, but they have been known to sign debt collection papers, Andy Kroll reports in Mother Jones. Martha Kunkle died in 1995, but her printed name and signature appear on paperwork filed by the debt collection agency Portfolio Recovery Associates as late as 2006 and 2007. The ruse was discovered and PRA, facing a fraud lawsuit, agreed in 2008 that the “Kunkle’s” documents couldn’t be used in court. That didn’t stop the agency from trying to use them again in 2009.

The attorney general of Missouri has announced that he will investigate whether any of Kunkle’s handiwork was used to support debt collection in his state. The attorney general of Minnesota is already investigating whether debt collectors have used fraudulent paperwork in court.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Conclusions

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Conclusions

Colorado is much like the previous state analyzed in this series: Virginia. Both states were seen until recently as Republican strongholds and rightfully so; President George W. Bush handily won both states in 2004 and 2000.

Yet in 2004, both states showed signs of shifting Democratic. Virginia barely moved Democratic even as the South swung heavily against Senator John Kerry. As for Colorado – it actually shifted 3.7% more Democratic, against the national tide. Indeed, in 2004 Mr. Kerry performed better in Colorado than he did in Florida.

This shift cumulated in the 2008 presidential election, which showed both Colorado and Virginia as influential swing states. Colorado has thus turned from a red state into a purple state. In doing so, the Democratic Party has carved out the following coalition:

Link to Image of Colorado Voting Shifts From 1992 to 2008

Edited NYT Image

Democratic gains since 1992 follow the “C” pattern that was also present in the actual 2008 county results. This is a pattern that is present in other parts of the country, as previous posts have observed. Democrats have generally improved along the Front Range, and especially in the Denver metropolis. They have also gained in two Republican strongholds: Colorado Springs and neighboring Douglas County.

On the other hand, Republicans have gained in several historically Democratic-voting Hispanic counties near Pueblo. They have also improved in the thinly populated rural stretches of east and west Colorado.

All in all, these changes have benefited Democrats more. This is because their gains have been in the more populated areas of Colorado:

Link to Image of Colorado, 2008 Presidential Election Voters

The heart of Colorado is therefore in the Denver metropolis, as the map indicates. Since 1992 Democrats have improved in all but one of the orange and red counties. In 2000 Mr. Bush won seven of the eleven highlighted counties. In 2008 Mr. Obama won seven of them. This is responsible for Colorado’s 17.3% leftward shift from 2000 to 2008.

This leftward shift has not turned Colorado into a blue state, but rather into a vitally important swing state. Say, for instance, that Mr. Obama had tied Senator John McCain in the popular vote. North Carolina and Indiana would have immediately flipped Republican. This would be followed by the traditional swing states Florida and then Ohio. Virginia would flip Republican next; Mr. Obama would lose by less than a percent. At this point Mr. McCain would have 262 electoral votes.

And there he would remain. In a tied election, Colorado would go by 1.7% to Mr. Obama, handing the senator 278 electoral votes and the presidency.

In the 2008 presidential election, therefore, Colorado was the most important state to win. It may remain thus in 2012.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. It will focus on the complex territory that constitutes the Democratic base in Colorado. The last part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Democratic Colorado

In American politics, the Democratic base is almost always more complex than the Republican base, a fact which is largely due to complex historical factors. Democrats wield a large and heterogeneous coalition – one which often splinters based on one difference or another. The Republican base is more cohesive.

The same is true for Colorado. Republican Colorado generally consists of rural white Colorado and parts of suburban white Colorado. Democratic Colorado is more difficult to characterize.

A look into President Barack Obama’s strongest counties provides some insight:

Link to Image of Obama's Strongest Counties in Colorado, 2008 Presidential Election

The Republican counties pictured here are fairly similar: they are thinly populated, homogeneously white rural counties. The Democratic counties, on the other hand, are quite different. There are four facets to Colorado’s Democratic base, and each facet is represented in the picture above.

Denver and Boulder

As the post focusing on the Republican base explained, the red-colored counties above constituted 1.2% of the total vote in 2008. A Republican who wins Colorado will win these places, but they are not necessary to win the state.

The same is not true for a Democrat who wins Colorado. The blue-colored counties – or, more specifically, Denver and Boulder – are absolutely essential for a Democratic candidate to win Colorado.

The map below illustrates this fact:

Link to Image of Colorado Margins, 2008 Presidential Election

As is evident by the map, Denver County and Boulder County are the two foundations of the Democratic base in Colorado. Mr. Obama gained a margin of 221,570 votes from the two counties. Without the cities of Boulder and Denver, Mr. Obama would have lost Colorado – by around 6,500 votes.

Cities are the mainstay of the Democratic Party in modern-day America, and so it is unsurprising that the Democratic base in Colorado rests upon two cities. Yet not all Democratic cities are alike. Boulder and Denver represent two dramatically different types of cities, both of which vote Democratic.

Boulder is a stronghold of Democratic liberalism; in 2000 it gave Green Party candidate Ralph Nader 11.8% of its vote. Like most liberal places in America (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, the state of Massachusetts) the median resident of Boulder is richer than the median resident of the United States. Boulder is also more homogeneous than the United States; whites compose something like four out of five people in Boulder County. In this, Boulder is also not much different from most liberal places either.

Denver, in contrast, has more in common with machine-cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit. Like these cities, Denver is poorer than the United States. Another commonality is the high number of minorities: Hispanics are more than one-third the total population, non-Hispanic whites less than half. Places like San Francisco and Seattle are more Democratic than liberal; places like Denver are the opposite. On the other hand, in 2000 Mr. Nader also got 5.86% of Denver’s vote – indicating the presence of a substantial liberal bloc.

Electorally, however, these differences do not matter. Both Denver and Boulder vote consistently and powerfully Democratic, and will continue doing so in the foreseeable future.

Rural Democratic Colorado

Colorado and Denver, however, constituted only two of the five blue-colored counties in the first map. The other three are rural, thinly populated, and highly Democratic areas. This may sound strange at first, given the extent of Democratic weakness in rural America. Yet the Democratic parts of rural Colorado have either one of two characteristics.

The first characteristic is indicated by the picture below:

Link to Image of Colorado Hispanics, 2000 Census

This map uses 2000 Census data to provide a picture of Colorado’s Hispanic population. In 2000 Latinos constituted 17.1% of Colorado; today their numbers have risen to 19.9% of the state population.

Latinos tend to be concentrated in two places: Denver and the areas to its northeast, and a broad band stretching from south-central to south-east Colorado. The latter areas tend to be rural, thinly populated, and the poorest places in Colorado. Due to the high numbers of Latinos, most of these counties usually vote Democratic.

But not all of them. Latinos are not as reliably Democratic as blacks, and they also turn-out in lower numbers. Thus counties with high Latino population correlate with but do not ensure Democratic victory. In 2008, Senator John McCain won seven of the eighteen counties with greater than 20% Latino population. In 2000 Governor George W. Bush actually won Conejos County, where about 58.9% of the population is Latino. Out of the rural counties above, Democrats are only guaranteed victory in the south-central band.

Ski resorts function as another characteristic of rural Democratic Colorado:

Link to Map of Colorado Ski Resorts

For whatever reason, rural counties dominated by ski resorts vote strongly Democratic. These counties are largely located along Colorado’s Front Range. In two of them Mr. Obama won over 70% of the vote: Pitkin County and San Miguel County. Both are home to famous ski resorts: Aspen Mountain in the former and Telluride Ski Resort in the latter.

Ski resort counties are strange places for Democrats to do well in. They are the opposite of the poor Latino counties which also vote Democratic. The people who live in them are generally quite rich, quite famous, and quite white. Rich, 90% non-Hispanic white San Miguel County does not sound at first glance like a Democratic stronghold. Yet when described this way, San Miguel County looks a lot like another Democratic place: Massachusetts.

Conclusion

The counties that form the Democratic base form the shape of a “C.” A strong Democratic candidate will expand and fatten the “C.” A strong Republican candidate will cut into the “C” and often split it in two.

President Barack Obama’s 9.0% victory in Colorado provides one illustration of this Democratic “C”:

Link to Image of Colorado, 2008 Presidential Election

In this “C,” all four elements of the Democratic base in Colorado are present. Denver and Boulder form the top part of the “C, which is augmented by suburban Denver counties which Mr. Obama also won. The rural ski resort counties on the Front Range form the left side of the “C,” and the rural Latino counties compose the bottom part.

President George W. Bush’s 8.4% victory in 2000, on the other hand, provides an instance of a Republican breaking the Democratic “C”:

Link to Image of Colorado, 2000 Presidential Election

Mr. Bush makes inroads everywhere: both rural ski resort counties, rural Latino counties, and the Denver-Boulder metropolis are much more Republican. The Democratic “C” is just present, but barely so.

Unlike other states, therefore, it is relatively easy to tell whether the state is voting for a Democrat or Republican just by looking at a county map. A Democratic victory will look like Mr. Obama’s map. A Republican victory will look like Mr. Bush’s map. This is unlike a state such as New York or Illinois, where Democrats or Republicans can win a 5% victory under the same county map.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads