Calling The House

Sunday, November 05, 2006
The WaPo adjusted the ingredients in their special secret polling sauce yesterday and - lo and behold the generic spread dropped to six. They've certainly knitted themselves a nice warm butt cover with that one. It may be that they read this Jay Cost piece and understood what he was explaining about a report on actual registration which does not in any way confirm any type of "Republican dissatisfaction". It may be that the WaPo cooked results are an outlier but the actual registration figures are 'real' count 'em on your fingers numbers and they do not show any real world shift.

It may also be that the WaPo gave some small thought to the truest of truisms in elections - nine out of ten incumbents hold their seats. A good scandal can pry them out and sometimes a poor economy - or a good scare by the Beast of Chatauqua - can shift enough votes to give them the boot. Otherwise they stay.

Did you know that the most expensive House election of '06 has already been held? The CA-50 special election held in conjunction with the California primary will be the single most expensive race of the year. The Moveon morons spent millions and the Reps gave a full test to both their ad campaign strategy and to their GOTV effort. The former incumbent in the district was as thoroughly disgraced as any Congressman has ever been (he's now serving eight years) and the district rewarded the Democrat challenger by giving her a whopping 1% additional support (in comparison to her previous losing efforts and Kerry's '04 performance). Bilbray (the new incumbent) is cruising toward victory in November. Small wonder considering that the district is showing good growth and good appreciation rates as well as a good increase in the percentage of the population owning their own homes.

I like 'real' numbers. If I can count something then I can come up with a simple metric involving quintiles and make an unweighted stab at a rationale for determining the outcome. The universe of seats that I'm looking at is composed of those outside the 5% threshold that Seneca mentioned in his post. The factors that I used to determine the outcome were:

1. Change in the population of under 18's in the district - fewer kids less optimism.

2. Increase in the percentage of home ownership within the district - first time owners are on their way to the Republican party.

3. Change in home value. A change that exceeds the inflation rate tends to give a feeling of economic security.

Those are economic demographic features involved, now the political:

4. Percentage shift between '02 and '04 - was there a discernible shift in the actual vote percentage.

5. Raw plurality from '02 - other things being equal how high a hill does the challenger have to climb to get to 50% +1.

6. Net difference in vote count between Republicans and Democrats from '02 to '04 - did the Republicans add more votes than the Democrats?

That's it for the track now for the horses:

1. Incumbency - single strongest factor. It's also irrelevant if there's a scandal hanging on the candidates neck.

2. Money raised - a very reliable indicator of candidate strength. Good candidates are money magnets.

3. "Q" - this a tough one because it's subjective (look at Bubba). It's still important enough to include - especially in open races.

Now the calls:

AZ-08 Graf/Giffords - Open seat - R loss
Outstanding Republican district which will be very hard for Giffords to hold in '08. Graf's appeal is single issue and he hasn't even drawn much money from the dedicated Tancretins. A decent candidate would have cruised in this district.

(If you like long shot parlays - this is a decent pick, the district could pull him through.)

CO-07 O'Donnell/Perlmutter Open Seat - R loss

This district is moderate in all respects. The district's political demographics are weak and O'Donnell just hasn't been able to get decent traction.

CT-04 Shays/Farrell Incumbent - R win

This is a dying district with weak political demographics and Shays really didn't work it correctly in '04. He'll win but it's going to be Groton pork that pulls him over the finish line.

FL-16 Negron/Mahoney - Open - R win

Very strong Republican demographics both economically and politically. Negron has a good Q and "Punch Foley for Negron" is a winning slogan.

FL-22 Shaw/Klein - Incumbent - R win

Shaw is a strong incumbent in a very strong district. This one should not even be on the board.

IA-01 Whalen/Braley - Open - R loss

A dying district with very weak Republican political demographics. Whalen seems a decent candidate and money isn't an issue but he doesn't look strong enough to carry this one off.

IL-06 Roskam/Duckworth Open - R win

Another dying district but with good Republican political demographics and a very strong candidate. Duckworth is a very low Q candidate and is counting on the Emily's Lister/Moveon morons to carry her across the line. Ain't gonna happen.

IN-08 Hostettler/Ellsworth - Incumbent - R loss

Weak district - weak candidate

KY-03 Northrup/Yarmuth - Incumbent - R win

This district is weak economically but strong politically. Northrup has a decent Q and did a great job in raising money.

NC-11 Taylor/Schuler - Incumbent - R loss

The district has poor economic demographics and is politically weak. Taylor's abrasive personality gives him a lower Q than Shuler and his 'independence' means that the GOTV in his district probably won't save him.

NM-01 Wilson/Madrid - Incumbent - R win

The district is stronger politically than it is economically - but not much. Madrid's missing Q factor makes this one a bit easier for Wilson than it otherwise might have been. Madrid is another Emily's Lister/Moveon schlub.

NY-24 Meier/Arcuri - Open - R loss

Lousy economic factors and worse political ones. Meier didn't draw much financial support and neither candidate has a significant Q factor. Dying districts are tough to hold.

NY-29 Kuhl/Massa - Incumbent - R win

Terrible economic factors but decent political ones. Kuhl's incumbency status should carry him through.

OH-15 Pryce/Kilroy - Incumbent - R win

Another dying district with weak political demographics. Pryce has been around the block enough times and raised a sufficient war chest to carry her back to DC.

OH-18 Padgett/Space - Open - R loss

Ney's former district. Lousy economics but strong political demographics. Both candidates have the Q of dried seaweed but scandal will give this to Space. Who won't hold it in '08.

PA-07 Weldon/Sestak - Incumbent - R loss

Lousy economics, indifferent political demographics and a nice scandal.

(This is another long shot parlay - Weldon has a lot of money and is as tough as nails.) It's a shame that he's also as bright as nails.

PA-10 Sherwood/Carney - Incumbent - R loss

Another one with lousy economics and lousy political demographics. This one has the added Democratic advantage of a tainted incumbent.

TX-22 Sekula-Gibbs/Lampson - Open - R loss

DeLay's old seat. Great economics and political demographics but the write in factor will be very tough to overcome. Lampson will be a one termer.

(This is the third long shot parlay - and the best long shot in the field.)

WI-08 Gard/Kagen - Open - R win

Moderate economic factors and a strong Republican political demographic plus Gard's good Q rating make this a hold.

The net?

Of these nineteen seats the Republicans lose ten - and hold the House unless at least five other seats fall to the Democrats while the Republicans don't win a single seat.


CF said...

Rick, you genius.

Look at this report on Michigan.
"The Detroit Free Press seems to think so.

The DFP gave the Clinton-Stabenow-Granholm rally, which mustered perhaps 500 supporters (at a 2,000-person venue) nothing if not favorable coverage.

One detail which did not appear to get covered by the DFP was the fact that this was the smallest audience of the election season at a Clinton-hosted rally.

The total lack of a grassroots turnout effort for President Clinton's appearance raises an interesting question: If Debbie Stabenow finds it this difficult to fill a venue for an appearance on her behalf by a former President -- and her Party's current Rock Star -- then how much trouble is she going to have legitimately filling the ballot box on Tuesday?

At the rally, Debbie Stabenow, running to keep her Senate seat against GOP challenger Mike Bouchard, said, "There are 72 hours before we decide who we are in Michigan; 72 hours for us to change direction."

CF said...

Gallup poll which 2 weeks ago had Ds w/23 pt advantage and 1 week ago had them at a 13 pt advantage, now has them at only a 7 pt advantage. Barone on H & C says he can't be sure, but he thinks there's a shift to R and the polls look more like 2004 ..

CF said...


Gallup poll which 4 weeks ago had Ds w/23 pt advantage and 2 weeks ago had them at a 13 pt advantage, now has them at only a 7 pt advantage. Barone on H & C says he can't be sure, but he thinks there's a shift to R and the polls look more like 2004 .. He still says the odds are on the D's taking the House..I hope you're right. I have a dinner riding on this.

Rick Ballard said...


Average '02 turnout for the 19 districts was 189K in '02. 11 of the 19 districts had '02 pluralities greater than 50K votes. If you roll that around for a minute you really have to wonder where the idea came from that the Dems were going to generate the huge wave. The '04 margins were considerably higher, of course, but turning 25K votes out of 189K is really no small task.

Toss in cheaper fuel, higher home ownership, full employment and fattening retirement plans and it's simply not a job that I would sign up for. Absent Iraq and scandals, the Dems would be very lucky to get 6 seats.

CF said...

Larwyn sent me this in a packet so I can't find the source though it seems to be a commnetor at Stop the ACLU:
"First we have this little ditty in the USAToday article where Frank Newport of Gallup is quoted:

“Based on history, a 7-point lead among likely voters still suggest Democrats will take enough votes to win a majority of seats in the House,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll.

This is what Frank Newport wrote about the 2002 election on October 01, 2006:

In 2002, Gallup’s final generic ballot among registered voters — in the poll conducted Oct 31-Nov 3, 2002 — showed a 5 point- Democratic edge, 49%-44%. Among likely voters it was 51% to 45% Republican, for a difference in the gap between registered and likely voters of 11 points. The final national House vote in 2002 was 50.5% for the Republicans vs. 45.9% for the Democrats, a 5 point Republican advantage).

What happened in 2002 when Democrats led the GOP by 6% amongst likely voters? The GOP gained two seats going from 221 to 223.

Sooo, could Frank Newport please splain how his very own poll in 2002 amongst likely voters showing a 6% Democrat advantage has the GOP gaining seats BUT his 2006 poll showing a 7% Democrat advantage has the GOP becoming the minority party? Oh, if you look at 1998, Frank Newport is really blown out of the water.

More detail for comparsion is HERE and HERE.

CF said...


"The generic-vote question persistently underprojected Republican vote share from 1994 to 2002. It did a better job of projecting Democratic vote share but missed the important thing: Republicans trailed on the generic vote every time except 2002, when they were tied, but Republicans won the popular vote for the House every time. The current WaPo numbers look like the average of 1996 and 1998, when Republicans won the popular vote 49 to 48 percent. As you may recall, they were on the defensive in the campaign dialogue in both cycles, in 1996 because of the backlash against the highly unpopular Newt Gingrich, in 1998 because of the backlash against the impeachment of Bill Clinton. They won the popular vote, and they won most of the seats anyway.

That's not to say they necessarily will this time. Scandals and other unforced errors seem sure to cost them 10 or more seats, and a loss of 15 seats produces a Democratic majority. But there are some other interesting numbers in the WaPo poll. Was it worth fighting in Iraq? Registered voters say no by a 44-to-53 percent margin. But that's not statistically different from the margin among registered voters in the WaPo's September 2004 poll: 46 to 51 percent. And the current WaPo's likely voters split, just barely, the other way: 49 to 48 percent. Similarly, on which party is better at handling Iraq, the WaPo has likely voters at 42 to 42 percent. Not a great endorsement of the president's party. But not the stinging rebuke that so much of the MSM coverage suggests.

Last summer, I wrote that the voters had decided that the Republicans deserved to lose but had not decided that the Democrats deserved to win. Sometime in October, as we spent our two or three weeks mulling over the Mark Foley scandal, one of Charlie Cook's ace staffers said that the voters had decided that the Democrats were an acceptable risk. Now I wonder whether that was right: whether in fact voters in the past week or so have been considering whether the Democrats deserved to win. The movement of independents in these polls to somewhat smaller anti-Bush margins and the apparent greater motivation of Republicans than Democrats to get out and vote suggest voters have been mulling over that question and that the Democrats, with their pounding anti-Bush rhetoric but their absence of much in the way of positive policies, might not be passing the test. And then along comes John Kerry. Voters may want to see George W. Bush checked by his opposition. But maybe not all that much.

All this said, I have been looking at three polls, and others may come along and point the other way. Republicans are plainly on the defensive in Senate and House races, and if they lose all or almost all the close Senate races and if they forfeit as many House seats as they seem likely to, Democrats could end up with majorities in both the House and Senate. On the House side, Republicans, even while holding most of their seats that have long been recognized as seriously contested, could lose overwhelmingly Bush '04 seats where Democrats are running attractive candidates and Republicans nominated by plurality candidates with serious liabilities (Idaho District One, Nebraska District Three) or where Republicans who have never had to campaign much have been caught unawares (New York 25). Many outcomes are possible. But those possible outcomes include some that seemed unrealistically optimistic for Republicans only a few days ago.

Posted at 01:33 PM by Michael Barone
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Rick Ballard said...

That waffle would taste better with some blueberry jam on it.