Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 1

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

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. The second part can be found here.

Link to Image of Colorado's Politics, 2010

Starting six years ago, a massive Democratic wave swept through the state of Colorado. Starting with the election of former Senator Ken Salazar, the Democratic Party took control of almost every state office there was to take. The results of this transformation are pictured in the table above.

At the time, Democrats crowed that Colorado was undergoing a fundamental political transformation. A flood of liberal migrants from California, along with steady growth in Colorado’s Latino population, was supposedly moving the state left from its decades-old conservative roots.

These conservative roots can be seen by taking a look at Colorado’s electoral history:

Link to Table of Colorado's Electoral History

Six years later, however, Democrats are not so confident. Polls show that Colorado has swung as quickly Republican as it went Democratic after 2004. Democrats are facing tough elections in Colorado’s senatorial and house races; until the Republican candidate became engulfed in scandal, they were also polling weakly in the gubernatorial race.

Whatever the future of Colorado, for the past decade the state has done a perfect job of reflecting the national mood. This is perhaps the ultimate attribute of a swing state.




Connecting One’s Favorite Sport and One’s Favorite Party

A fascinating part of politics is exploring what makes people vote as they do. The political belief that a person holds often is linked with something entirely unrelated. Several studies have shown correlations between, for instance, personality traits or hormone levels and support for the Democratic or Republican Party.

One such study was undertaken by Hotline and the National Journal, which can be found here. They compared the relationship between the sports people watch, the national parties they vote for, and their turn-out rate.

The results were graphed below:

Link to Graph of Relationship Between One's Favorite Sport and One's Favorite Party

This chart compares the voting rates and political skew of each sport’s audiences to the average (mean) American. The numbers indicate percentages; for instance, fans of WWE wrestling are about 59% more Democratic than the average American but only 66% as likely to vote as the average American.

The results are quite interesting. Unsurprisingly, most sports viewers tend to vote Republican; this is because sports fans are generally males, and males lean Republican. Political analysts may be interested to see that NASCAR fans are less Republican than college football and PGA watchers – although this may just be an artifact of randomness.

There does not seem to be much of a consistent difference of type between “Democratic” sports and “Republican” sports. Viewers of NBA basketball are left-leaning, but viewers of college basketball are right-leaning. NASCAR fans are more conservative, but sports car racing fans are liberal. On the other hand, there is a link between the type of sport a person watches and his or her likelihood to vote. Sports with low-voting viewers tend to have small audiences, and to be relatively obscure. Once again, it would be quite interesting to explore why this is so.

Indeed, this graph leaves us with a whole set of puzzling questions. Why are college basketball viewers so much more Republican than NBA viewers? Why are NBA fans so liberal in the first place, unlike any other major sport? Why are people who watch non-mainstream sports less likely to vote?

Until somebody comes up with a convincing set of answers, this Democratic-voting NBA fan will keep on wondering.




A Commendation to Three Brave Republicans

Election season is coming up, and as if by magic little shoots of controversy are sprouting throughout the political landscape. One avenue of controversy has been with regards to the Fourteenth Amendment. Republican leaders, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, have incited a controversy over what they label “anchor babies.” They propose amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship – ironically, one of the Republican Party’s proudest achievements, and a crucial tool in assimilating American immigrants.

A depressingly high number of Republicans have toed to this party line. For this, those Republicans broken the line – voicing support for keeping the Constitution as it is – deserve commendations.

One such Republican is Congressman Charles Djou. Mr. Djou, who represents a Democratic-leaning district in Hawaii, constitutes one of the few Asian-Americans in Congress. In response to Republican calls to amend the Constitution, Mr. Djou wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed. It argued:

Critics of birthright citizenship cite poll numbers and recent laws passed by European countries limiting citizenship. America is not Europe. Nor should we want to be. Europe has struggled for centuries with assimilating ethnic groups. By contrast, America’s unique melting pot of cultures and ethnicities has successfully assimilated new groups in far less time. This assimilation has made the whole nation stronger.

The 14th Amendment is one of the crowning achievements of the Republican Party. Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment guaranteed due process for every person under the law and helped to reunite a fractured nation. It pains me to think that we may start tinkering with this fundamental fabric of our union.

Another Republican deserving of some praise is Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for Florida’s Senate seat. Like Mr. Djou, Mr. Rubio is the son of immigrants; his parents came from Cuba after Fidel Castro took power.

In many ways Mr. Rubio is a standard conservative Republican. The Florida politician, for instance, is opposed to almost every one of President Barack Obama’s initiatives. Nevertheless, when asked about denying citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants, Mr. Rubio stated:

You’re taking energy and focus away from that fundamental debate and spending time on something that quite frankly is not the highest and best use of our political attention. I don’t think that’s where the problem is.

The final Republican politician is not somebody most people would imagine as a moderate: Mike Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee looks, talks, and feels like your typical firebreathing Southern conservative. Yet when asked about his stance on Mr. Graham’s proposal to end birthright citizenship, Mr. Huckabee answered:

…You do not punish a child for something the parent did.

The question is: Is [an undocumented child born outside of the U.S.] better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it’s better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen.

All in all, the debate over birthright citizenship is a symbol of the choice facing the Republican Party. There are two roads it can take. One road is the path of Charles Djou, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee. It is a path in which the Republican Party embraces diversity and courts immigrants as a natural constituency due to their socially conservative views.

The other road is the path of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. This is the path of anger, in which Republicans say no – no to immigration, no to change, no to everything. It is a path in which Republicans focus their efforts on appealing to an ever-shrinking and ever-more out-of-touch constituency. It is the path that has led the Republican Party to where it is now: controlling neither part of Congress nor the executive branch.

Which path will the Republican Party choose?




The White Vote in Washington D.C.

When Republicans attack American liberalism, they prefer to use San Francisco as a punch bag. Indeed, San Francisco does constitute quite a liberal city; in the 2008 presidential election, 84.0% of the good folk of San Francisco preferred Democratic candidate Barack Obama over Senator John McCain.

San Francisco was far from the most Democratic-voting city in 2008, however. Mr. Obama’s percentage total was greater in several places; Washington D.C., for instance, pummeled San Francisco in the contest of who votes more loyally Democratic. In the capital of America, an astonishing 92.5% of voters supported the Illinois senator.

Most people who will hear this will probably start thinking something quite politically incorrect. The line of thought goes that “Washington is full of black people, all the blacks voted for Obama, so of course it voted that way.”

This is half true and half false. It is true that the capital’s black population voted uniformly for the president – something that occurs with almost all Democratic candidates. The census, however, estimates that blacks compose only 54.4% of Washington’s overall population. This may surprise a lot of Americans who think the city is all-black. Even if every single black person in Washington voted Democratic, Mr. Obama still is quite a ways off from 92.5%.

Let’s look at another place with similar demographics to Washington D.C. – Montgomery County, Alabama where the Civil Rights movement started. Like Washington, Montgomery’s population is 52.9% black. Unlike Washington (where Mr. Obama won 92.5% of the vote), however, Montgomery only gave Mr. Obama 59.3% of the vote. Blacks are not responsible for this 33% difference; there is not much variation in how African-Americans voted in both cities.

The trick is with the white population. According to exit polls, Mr. Obama won 10% of whites in the state of Alabama. The results from Montgomery County reflect this low level of support.

In Washington, however, Mr. Obama won an astounding 86% of the white vote, according to exit polls. This is how the Illinois senator was able to get up to 92.5% of the vote in Washington, which is about one-third white. If white people alone had voted in Washington, Mr. Obama would still have done better than he did in San Francisco.

It would be quite interesting to explore why whites in the capital vote so loyally Democratic. Washington, of course, constitutes the center of the federal government; it would not be unusual for much of the white population to work for the government and thus vote more Democratic. But what type of work do they do – do they deliver the mail for the Post Office, or do they run the Post Office? Is Washington’s white population composed of  mostly working-class, union-type Democrats? Or is it composed mostly of “wine-track” liberals, the type that populate cities like San Francisco and Seattle?

Whatever the answer, this statistic remains one of the most curious and interesting ones to come out of the 2008 presidential election. Indeed, until now this blogger was unaware that such one-sided Democratic voting patterns existed among whites anywhere in the nation. To get 86% of the vote anywhere is a burdensome feat. For a Democrat to get that support from whites is something that one does not see often in the United States.


Previewing Senate Elections: California, Section 2

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing competitive Senate elections in blue states. It is the second section of two posts focusing on the greatest state in the union (otherwise known as California). The first part of the series 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.)

Suburban SoCal

Southern California (SoCal, in short) is where the battle for California will be won or lost. Ms. Fiorina must accomplish two tasks in the region.

First, she must clean the clock in the suburban counties outside Los Angeles. It is in places like Orange County, San Diego, and the Inland Empire that the votes to counter the Democratic bases in the Bay Area can be found. In the 2008 presidential election, there were one million more votes cast in the six SoCal counties above (excluding Los Angeles) than in the entire Bay Area.

This task is not too difficult. Unlike liberal NorCal, the suburbs in this region are more like the rest of the United States in their political leanings; in fact, they are probably more conservative than the median. Orange County and San Diego County are nationally known as conservative bastions (although they are not as red as in the past). Ms. Fioina probably needs to win above 60% of the vote in both counties. Historically, Republicans have often done this. The trouble is with Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

Ms. Fiorina’s second task is to run closely in Los Angeles. It is here that Republicans face their greatest challenge. Los Angeles – sprawled, extremely populous, and arguably more diverse than even the Bay Area – constitutes a Democratic stronghold. President Barack Obama ran off with 69.2% of the vote here; Senator John Kerry took 63.1%. Ms. Fiorina must reduce this Democratic margin to within the single-digits.

Link to Map of Los Angeles, 2008 Presidential Election

The math here is simple.  There are just not enough Republican votes in Central Valley, the Orange County-San Diego metropolis, and the Inland Empire to offset the Democratic bastions of the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Republicans must therefore break one of the two strongholds. It is impossible to do this in the Bay. So the choice must be Los Angeles.

The key are the outer, wealthier suburbs within Los Angeles county. Some are liberal Hollywood areas, typified by Congressman Henry Waxman’s 30th congressional district. Republicans probably cannot win these. Others are more conservative and even voted for Senator John McCain (see, for instance, the patches of red north of Pomona and south of Redondo Beach). Ms. Fiorina will have to expand upon this core and win places like the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena – suburbs which rarely vote Republican.


When the voting booths close and the precinct results start pouring in, look at Los Angeles County. Ms. Fiorina’s performance there will be most indicative of her overall strength. If Democrats are winning the county by double-digits, then she is in trouble. Conversely, if their margin is less than five percent – or if Republicans are winning the county – then Republicans are in good shape. A Democratic margin between five and ten percent signifies that a long night is ahead.

On a state-level basis, modeling a close Republican victory is somewhat difficult; Republican candidates haven’t won a close race for a long time in California. There is, however, a substitute that fits well:

Link to Map of California, Proposition 8

These are the results of the famous Proposition 8, which passed by a 4.5% margin. On a county-by-county basis, a Fiorina victory will probably look quite similar to this. There are minor differences; the margins in Orange and San Diego Counties would probably be greater; Republicans probably wouldn’t win Los Angeles County.

Overall, however, the picture would not be too different. Heavy margins from the SoCal suburbs and Central Valley counter Democratic strength in NorCal, while a strong Republican performance in Los Angeles dilutes Democratic margins there.

There is one final complication for Republicans. California constitutes the most diverse state in the country; winning minorities is a must. The Republican Party is not very good at this, which why California is a blue state today. It must change this, if candidates like Ms. Fiorina are to win the state.

Some minorities are easier to win than others. Blacks are most loyal to the Democratic Party, but they number only 6.2% of the state’s population. While more numerous Asians and Latinos do not vote their numbers (their share in the voting electorate is slightly more than half their share of the overall population), their votes are easier to get.

Here Proposition 8 is less useful as a guide. In Los Angeles County, for instance, all of South Central voted for the proposition. Unless Republicans start winning Compton and Watts, they will have to find support from a different section of California’s majority-minorities.

Winning minorities constitutes a novel challenge to the Republican Party; until now it has drawn an ever-increasing percentage of the white vote to offset increasing numbers of minorities. This is no longer possible in places like California. If Republican candidates like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are to win the state, they will need to envision a new strategy.





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