Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Off Year Now Obsolete

You don't need the math to grasp the key take away from the graphs available at Pollster.

The left compares Coakley (dark blue) with Obama's light blue distribution in 2008. She's to the left (fewer votes) as one would expect compared to a presidential election. More interesting is what happened with Brown. His vote distribution almost exactly duplicates McCain's. In other words, for a January special election Brown got ALL (as in CLONE) of McCain's voter turnout in a presidential contest.

Note the curve shapes are almost identical. In no way am I suggesting this week's election is not important. It's huge, but the more accurate perspective is that a block of voters (casting ballots in 2008) has become extremely energized, generating for Brown in an off year special election the voter signature exactly matching that of the GOP presidential nominee in a hot election. While blue exhibited the typical slacking off, red remained hot - but contrary to their swaggering, not in greater numbers.

As the graphs show, in particular for Democrat incumbents, if you allow 2010 to be an “off year” for your voters, you might be sent packing, because the assumption that it's an off year for your opponent's voters just bought the farm.

I am thinking of an upcoming Congressional race in the Southeast District of a Southwestern border state. Blue incumbent with red to consider.

The above graphs could not be more relevant.



Blogger Liza said...


I linked to your post on another blog and a commentor replied. Do you have any more analysis/explanation on this?

It's been a while, and I was never good at statistics/probability to begin with, but I really had to think to understand those graphs. The original pollster dot com post on Pollster makes it clearer.

The top graphs are similar to probability density functions - basically histograms. (The site should be clearer on this.) This is how I interpreted the 'density' graphs:

you take your results.
say you have 5,000 voting districts in MA and you have a number for each of them, i.e. # of votes received by Coakley.
make a graph: independent axis = x votes or fewer.
dependent axis = # of districts receiving x votes or fewer.
you will end up with a monotonically increasing (i.e., never decreasing as you go from left to right) graph; the last # on the right end of the x-axis will be total # of votes, and the highest # on the y-axis will be total # of districts. Divide all the #'s on the y-axis by total # of districts to normalize, so that the y-axis becomes "%-age of districts".
take the derivative of this graph (approximate via some interpolation method since it's probably not continuous over the integers) and you'll get the density function for Coakley votes in this election.

(Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

The upshot (Pollster):

"Of course this doesn't mean that Brown got exactly McCain's voters, since lots of individual switching could add up to these totals. But in the aggregate, Mass. in 2010 looks exactly like it did in 2008 on the Rep side. On the Dem side, a whole lot fewer voters."

Brown actually got more turnout than McCain did, while Coakley barely got half of Obama's, although of course beating McCain's 2008 total is significantly easier than even matching Obama's 2008 total. Even still, this is unusual for a special, off-year election - the McCain voters are still fired up enough to come out for this.

It seems strange that the shape of the density distributions are so similar. I'm not sure I understand why. I can see how the size of turnout relative from one town to another, would track population, but does that explain it?

1/21/2010 2:39 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Everything from "It's been awhile.." to the end should be in quotes or italics.

1/21/2010 2:40 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

The graphs show the distribution of districts by vote count, producing an aggregate “signature” illustrated by the shape, which is like a picture of how the votes arrived. A change in the shape indicates a shift in the QUALITY of the dynamics behind the turnout. A shift to the left or right indicates a shift in the QUANTITY.

The red graph shows that Brown generated what came out for McCain/Palin both in quality and quantity. The blue graph shift to the left while retaining the same shape basically means that Coakley slipped equally across the state. It's like ten blue votes fell to seven everywhere.

Bottom line: Red held steady and blue slipped.

The hype about droves and droves of Independents abandoning one side for the other is nonsense. If that were the case, we would see a red shift to the right matching the blue shift to the left. That didn't happen.

Disgust with Democrats does not translate into love for Republicans. Still, if the Democrats don't get their shit together, 2010 will be a disaster.

The real bifurcation is between the fat cat zillionaires bleeding the country dry and those of us that are bleeding to death. The party that can tap this effectively is the one that will prevail.

1/21/2010 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Mariana said...

x4mr, while your last sentence is true, it has nothing to do with the graphs you very well explained.
The numbers(quantity, quality) tell a lot but WHO voted - or did not vote - and WHY (dinamics within the parties) are questions/answers not captured here.

1/21/2010 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Mariana said...

I forgot to spell check, or at least to preview

1/21/2010 8:15 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Even so, it seems to be a pretty solid contradiction of all the so called "analysis." It takes you right back to campaign strategy. You have historical data about previous elections. You know your turnouts by party and generally what to expect in local, special, midterm, and presidential elections.
Coakley's loss may very well be mostly about laziness, complacency, and incompetence. She had access to resources she didn't even make effective use of such as the labor unions. The national Democrats came in at the midnight hour with a big check that was too late to save her. I really believe that Coakley should have squeaked by if her campaign had been paying attention to the opposition.
It all kind of makes sense. If your strategy is based on a midterm or special election turnout and the opposition generates a presidential turnout from its supporters, then you are probably screwed.
Amazing. How did they miss that? They must have totally ignored Brown.
Democrats have gotten a major wake up call. The midterm election will not be an easy one for quite a few of them.

1/21/2010 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Framer said...

Its the same thing that happened in the Tucson city elections. The Democratic machine, because it has been so dominant grew fat and lazy and didn't have the means or the resources to respond when disaster came.

The disaffected side, has been pushing a large boulder uphill for so long has had to work much harder for any effect, but has nonetheless found their muscles strong and lean.

Once outside circumstances somewhat evened the playing field, the side with the least previous success is destined to win. That's why so many "blue dogs" were able to sneak in the last two cycles in places where they normally wouldn't.

I personally believe Republicans will probably find themselves surging in crazy places like California and New England Senate races, while still knifefighting in traditional swing states.

That, and the 2008 Obama coalition will never form for off year democrats. It won't likely show up for him in 2012. If Democrats are counting that for the baseline, they are already screwed.

1/22/2010 3:48 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

I haven't written a

"real post" about what's going on because I don't understand it yet. In fact, I believe it is new terrain not fully understood by anyone. The best articulation I've heard so far is that there is rage against the “insiders” and the “fat cats.” At present they are most represented by the finance executives and their obscene bonuses while record numbers of people are filing for bankruptcy, out of work, and losing their homes. Those on the right seem to think the government enables (bailout, etc.) corporate abuse, with some merit. Those on the left think lack of regulation (the meltdown) enables corporate abuse, also with merit.

Everyone's angry, left and right, and we can all smell the schmucks, from the ambulance chasing attorneys to corrupt lobbyists to Medicare scams. We distrust all of it and rightfully so.

Hypocrisy, ignorance, and stupidity thrive during populist uprisings, and I do think a populist uprising is looming. If the Democrats remain the spineless, gutless turds they have been for the last year, they won't look like a solution and face annihilation, but if the GOP is nothing but a staunch No and adamant roadblock as the carnage continues, their traction will be limited. Each side is gambling that it can funnel the rage towards the other side, yet the blood keeps flowing.

Anxiety, frustration, and anger will continue to mount as we drift towards oblivion. It is NOT obvious who will be regarded as part of the solution and who is tagged as part of the problem.

Not obvious at all.

On a side note - I am sick of the broken record blogs and refuse to become one. For example, I don't have to read Seeing Red AZ. I already know what's there. The blue versions are just as boring and inconsequential. Look at the recent posts about CD-8. Yawn. I might have a good idea why you've reduced your blogging to a few comments now and then. I think Sirocco may have reached the same conclusion. Liza has taken the time to branch out and find some worthwhile spots (they aren't local).

Looking through my lens, the broken record blogs (talk radio is the same) increasingly occur as something like a political hand job. Every day slightly different words provide the same strokes with the same results for the same people.

The TDP days are long gone.

1/22/2010 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Good comment, x4mr.

I like what you said about "broken record" blogs, but I think it is more accurate to go on a post by post basis. Even Seeing Red might post a useful bit of info now and then. But I see what you mean, like anything that writes "Barack Hussein Obama" like yet another mention of his middle name will alter the cosmos. Broken record, yes.

A populist uprising is exactly what is happening. I think Obama is starting to get that.

Ben Bernanke is feeling the heat because of those financial robber barons. Bernanke under seige.

Under Bush, Republicans were corporate whores. Are teabaggers corporate whores? People are at least starting to talk about helping real people instead of the fat cats. When will they start doing it?

Someone should tell the Republicans that "Just Say No" doesn't give a poor kid medicine or stop insurance moguls from fabricating pre-existing conditions.

1/22/2010 11:59 PM  
Anonymous Framer said...


Except I think you mischaracterize the populist feeling as "rage." That may be what drives some, but for others it is the "red pill-blue pill" thesis that you yourself have talked about. There are many of us that can never look at politics or politicians the same way again.

For some, it just turns them away from politics altogether. Welcome to major parts of the Republican party for the last four or five years. A good portion just dropped out. For others, it has refocused their priorities, or made them look at the issues differently. That is the change. The Democrats are feeling this now.

Look, the fact that you don't have "insurance mogul" reform is ENTIRELY Obama's fault. They helped write that Health Care Bill that the Democrats were pushing. The bill made them stronger, even if they gave some things away at the edges. If you really wanted a REAL health care bill, it would have been less than 100 pages, and been written before it was introduced to the House and Senate. That bill would have passed. Instead you got the lard-filled bloaters that were not reconcilable. They were straight up payoffs, just like the "stimulus" bill, just like cap and trade. And the banks, corporations, and other entities so many here hate sat next to Obama and congress as these bills were created, just like they did in the Bush administration. Take the right pill, this is easily recognizable and your political life changes forever.

This realization can bring rage, despair, or, if acted upon, power. Once you understand the real rules, you can beat them. One you understand what TREO actually is, you can defeat it. Once you realize who is pulling strings, you can direct your energy that direction. You are correct in that blogging isn't the total answer. You have to fight the battles to get the good info to blog about. That is why you are different. You fought actual battles outside of your keyboard and it made what you had to say intriguing. Blogging was an extension of a real struggle and it made your blogging effective. The further you get from that battle the less fire and interest you have.

Once the scales drop you can become angry or disinterested. Resist that. explore the new reality everywhere like you did with your TREO battle and make a difference (You already won that battle by the way, TREO's days are numbered). Focus on the small, it makes things much easier, even if it is the size of your family. In the end, the Data Port days were the truth, everything else is the fantasy. Big Issues will find us without any of us looking for them.

Plenty of records aren't broken and many have never been listened to. Play them here.

1/23/2010 10:55 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

What a terrible burden it must be for you to need actual data/information before drawing conclusions and making inferences. A "political analyst" career on Fox News totally eludes you. I guess you're stuck there in Kentucky.

"Knowing statistics will change your life, and completely change the way you think." That is a quote from a SDSU statistics professor I knew back in San Diego.

1/24/2010 9:38 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Thanks for the great comments, and many good points were made.

Yeah, Liza, requiring facts and data does tend to complicate things.

It is increasingly clear that the REAL energy behind the escalating outrage is the recession and economic hardship.

Nothing suggests the anti-abortion/ homophobe/ abstinence crowd is gaining strength. Our generation (guessing most here are 40-50) is probably the last that has to listen to them.

What is hot and will get hotter is the economic issues that cause real pain in real pocketbooks. Health care, financial legislation, the deficit (sort of), and of course JOBS JOBS JOBS. For health care, dems need to craft pieces that are so no brainer that GOP opposition looks petty and against the interests of the US citizens.

The military industrial complex overplayed its hand under Bush II, especially with the Halliburton no bid "cost plus" contract that bled us like a stuck pig. Political strategy for either party here is a quagmire. Support has atrophied, and Bush II's long term legacy is dog shit.

Framer, love what you wrote about TREO and this blog, and you may very well be right. I hope you are, especially about TREO's demise. I think an astute reader who sticks around long enough can get that I really am an Independent. When a Tea Party screams outrage at corporate corruption, I scream with them.

TREO actually started with ideas that made some sense, but they hired pure Clothmeisters (Swine Snell). The Alliance becoming DTP is the same cancer (Lying Lyons).

I love Steve K. making waves on the Tucson council and think it's great.

1/24/2010 10:37 AM  

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