Monthly Archives: January 2010

Election Night Live

7:50  Ok, I’ll be blogging continuously at this site from now until the race is called.   If you want to see election returns as they come in, you can try this Globe site and hope it doesn’t crash:

Polls close in 10 minutes.  Look for the eastern cities, like Cambridge, to get reports in first.

For reasons that escape me, we are close to setting a record for most hits on the PresidentialPower site ever – more, even, than the 2008 election site. Does this race carry that much interest?  Or are people just fascinated that my nearly 80-year old mother uses a treadmill?

Whatever the reason, I’m wondering if we can break the record tonight – almost one year to the day since Obama’s inauguration!

7:57.  According to Chuck Todd, expect about 25% of Massachusetts votes to be counted within the first hour.  I suspect that won’t be enough to call the race unless someone is really running away with this.

In case  you are interested, there’s an automatic recount if the margin of victory is less than .5% (1/2 a percent)

First Returns in!  Mom called.  She voted for Coakley, but only after getting calls from Clinton and Biden.  She was holding out for Obama, but he never called.

WBUR is evidently projecting 40% turnout.  Conventional wisdom says this isn’t high enough to overturn the polling projections, which were based on 35-40% turnout projections, if I recall correctly.   I think this is probably good news for Brown.

8:11 Well, what do you know?  Rasmussen is giving us the next best thing to exit polls – looks like they did their own poll today?  go to:

If Rasmussen is right, more good news for Brown:  22% of Democrats voted for him.  This is consistent with what the polls were predicting.   So far, no evidence of that surge in Democratic turnout that Coakley is counting on.  ON the other hand, how do we know Rasmussen’s polling is accurate?

other tidbits from Rasmussen:

  • Among those who decided how they would vote in the past few days, Coakley has a slight edge, 47% to 41%.
  • Coakley also has a big advantage among those who made up their mind more than a month ago.
  • Seventy-six percent (76%) of voters for Brown said they were voting for him rather than against Coakley.
  • Sixty-six percent (66%) of Coakley voters said they were voting for her rather than against Brown.

Orion – looks like you got your wish for a Rasmussen poll!

We are going to obliterate the Election Night hits at this rate – and yet only one comment!  I have to think the blogging audience is mostly composed of Coakley supporters who view this as a funeral.  Or at least a wake.  If it’s going to be a wake, at least make it an Irish one.  That way I can open the scotch earlier.

8:22  Ok, we are getting some very early returns (I’m reading these off the Globe running tally).  about 75% of votes reported in Bolton and Ashland.  Bolton is on the rte. 495 corridor, a rural bedroom community that Brown needs to win.  And he’s up there, and in Ashland  by about 1,000 vote out of about 9,000 cast.  And so it begins…

Ah – now the comments come.  Thanks for the updates – remember, I don’t have the cable here….

75% of concord voters in – a town Coakley has to win, and she’s up 5435 – 3271.  She has to win big in these affluent suburbs.  First town I see her winning.

Marc Ambinder is tweeting that White House is, in effect, telling people “you know what’s going to happen.”

Just a side note on how much technology has changed election night coverage.  There’s just so much more information out there.   but the fact that Rasmussen can put a poll into play on election day is a potent indicator of how far automated polling has come.

116/2168 precincts reporting – Brown 54,240/52% – Coakly 49,077/47%

Grafton is a former mill town near Worcester – one that Brown needs to win.  It’s reporting, with 60% in, Brown 4372 and Coakley 2442.

Well, I should have expected this.  My Boston Globe site has crashed.  I’ll need to find another source I think for town-level data.  STay tuned….

NOpe, it’s back up, but struggling.  Haverhill, a pretty large community has Brown up with about 45% of the vote in, by 11069 to 7259.

I’ll need to check back to the 2008 results, but so far Brown is in line or performing better than what was projected in the polls, based on my familiarity with these towns.

Ok, I’ve switched over to the AP feed.  Much better!  40% of precincts reporting, Brown up 53-46%.  But we still have Coakley’s big guns to report in: Cambridge and Boston.  She’s not out of this yet.   (NOte that that’s 40% of precincts – not of the vote!)

Apparently somebody at RCP (Sean Trende) is arguing that Brown is undeperforming based on the Romney city by town model – ignore that.  Brown is drawing on a different coalition than Romney, so I don’t think that comparison will tell us much.

Newton  – one of those liberal Boston suburbs that Coakley has to win, is going for her 68-32% (14,000-7,000)

Ok, everything is slow here on my end -sorry.  But AP is reporting partial results for Boston: 35% of precincts in, Coakley up 61%-38%.  My recollection is that if Brown wins 33% or above in Boston, that would be a huge problem for Coakley.

This is not looking good for her.   I can’t see where in Boston these precincts are coming from, but she really needs 67% or more there.

9:16   As Marty point out, when my blog was set up, they must have put my time an hour ahead.  So yes, I’m calling it for Brown.  The rest of you will see this in an hour!

Seriously, I don’t see how she makes this up unless she completely dominates in Cambridge, Lowell and the rest of Boston.  There’s just not that many votes out there.   With 66% of the precincts in, Brown is up 53%-46%.

NOte this is almost exactly what the final polling average is – another triumph of head over heart.

That’s assuming it holds up!

jack’s comment remind me to expect the long knives to come out.  Coakley’s people will be blaming Obama and the Democratic leadership for coming in far too late, despite pleas for help.  Obama will distance himself from Coakley and say she ran a horrible campaign.   And the news media already has their frame written:  voters reject Obama, health care!

Wrong – all of it in my view.   I think this election turned on two issues – unemployment/sluggish economy and the Christmas bombing.  Fundamentals exacerbated by a campaign that failed to address the fundamentals.   By aligning herself with the establishment, Coakley inadvertently made herself the target for voter anger over the economy.  And by laying low during Christmas, she let Brown steal the security mom vote, compounded by her failure to counter that charge during the debate.

Why didn’t health care play a bigger role among Brown’s supporters?  Because they already have universal health care.  The national debate meant alot to the national punditry and the press, but not so much to Brown’s local voters.

That’s my read.  Anyone else want to take a shot?

Great job tonight – two historic events!  Brown wins Kennedy’s …er…the People’s Seat, and you have obliterated the record for most hits on this site, previously held by the Election 2008 night crowd.

I’m going to pour a scotch.  I’ll be write (yes, pun intended) back with some post-race analysis.

Ok.  my first thought is to echo Tarsi – everything I thought I knew about massachusetts politics told me Brown couldn’t win this.  But the data said otherwise.   Some pundits (see Nate Silver!) ended up fudging the data because – and it’s human nature – they just didn’t want to believe what it was telling them.  The hardest thing in the world is to resist letting your heart color your analysis.   This isn’t to say that we always get this right, or that we have perfect understanding of political events (and by “we” I mean all those researchers whose work provides the basis for what I do here. )  But we do have a methodology and we try to stick with it.  A week ago,  without consulting data, I would have told you Coakley was going to win this, easily.   But the data came in and said otherwise.  we went with the data.   Yesterday, as Charles Franklin put it, the trend line indicated that Brown was going to win this by 6%.  It looks like Franklin may have hit this on the nose.    I hope this gives you a better appreciation of what we try to do on this site.  Go elsewhere for the echo chamber effect and to worship among fellow converts.  That’s not what we do here.

But….I can’t believe Brown won.

Must….resist….lashing…out….at George!  Quick – one of you who has heard my rant on campaigns, please answer George before my head explodes.  Explain what I said about campaigns!  Quickly!!!

82% of precincts in, Brown holding at 52-47.

Ok, here’s who just got elected to replace Ted Kennedy – below the picture I’ve toyed with some slogans for the new Senator.   But I’m open to suggestions…

Ok, try these slogans out:

We take our pants off – one leg at a time.

When I say transparency, I mean transparency!

Scott Brown:  He won’t give you the short end of the … stick.

Best slogan gets a “It’s the Fundamentals, Stupid” t-shirt.

Thinking more broadly about the results, I wonder what this does to Romney’s presidential bid?

As for health care, alot of rumors floating around that Democrats will try to ram this thing through before Brown is seated.  I think that is absolutely insane.  If they do that, you risk spreading voter anger.  I think Kirk will find it difficult to cast a vote for health care if Brown instructs him not to.   Not to mention how hard it is going to be for Pelosi to whip the blue dog democrats into line to support a straight up vote in favor of the Senate bill.   I just don’t see it happening – to me, this is the same wishful thinking that led people to believe Coakley was going to win this.  I think after people sleep on this and realize we are living in a different world tomorrow, saner heads will prevail.  We are either going to start over on health care or see more modifications to the existing bill.

Great question from Marty regarding why Kennedy’s legacy seem to carry so little weight, and it reminds me that both Marty and Matt Hoenck hit the nail on the head last night, in my view, in explaining why this election was trending toward Brown.  As Marty notes, Kennedy was a beloved figure, but his flaws were also part of the package, and I think that a certain segment of the voting public was ready to move on after his death.  The Senator is Dead, Long Live the Senator!   Moreover, the machinations by Democrats, who twice altered the rules in the last five years in an attempt to prevent Republicans from possibly winning Senate seats may have had longterm repercussions here.  In the end, I think Brown’s argument that this wasn’t Kennedy’s seat, it was the people’s seat, really resonated and in a sense gave voters an excuse to turn Kennedy’s picture to the wall.  Would it have been different if his Vicki had run?  I guess that depends in part on whether she came across as credible.   I honestly don’t know, but it’s a great question.

This is also a reminder that we forget that Coakley smoked the field in the Democratic primary – nobody was critiquing her campaigning skills then.   I really think that by inheriting the position of Lady-in-Waiting, she actually weakened her political strength.   It became really hard for her to pivot in the last few days and try to become the insurgent candidate responding to voter anger.

That was, in my view, the unpredicted factor in this race: the depth of voter anger at the perceived incumbent.

Jeff  – You are right.  Most of the blue dog democrats will probably prefer the Senate version.  So one difficulty Pelosi will have is keeping her Left flank in line if she pushes for a straight up acceptance of the Senate bill.   But I also think some of the Blue dogs, who must sit for election in less than a year, are going to find it difficult to vote for the Senate bill.   There’s going to be tremendous pressure to bring the Olympia Snowes back into this debate – at the risk of alienating the Left in both chambers.   That means no straight passage of the Senate bill.    I just think Democrats are going to pause to collect their wits after this election, particularly since the media is going to spin this a anti-health care and anti-Obama.

11:00 pm.  Ok with almost 100% of precincts reporting its Brown 52%, Coakely 47.  This is about 1%less than the simple linear trend line predicted. In other words, the polls nailed it. I’ll be on tomorrow with a more thorough analysis of the polling and a look at what Rasmussen is reporting on the election day polling, which is the closest we are going to get to an exit poll this time around.  At this point, the raw vote totals are Brown, 1,161, 586 and Coakley 1,055,409.  I assumed Brown would win if he cracked 1 million votes, but turnout exceeded my predictions – closer to 50% (I need to check this tomorrow.  If that number holds up, it supports my prediction that higher turnout would in fact help Brown, or at least not hurt him.

Truly a historic night.  I want to thank all of you who posted or logged on to this site tonight – you shattered the record for hits.  I’m still not sure what that means, frankly.  did this race really attract that much attention?  And what do I have to do to keep you tuning in?  There are only so many nude pictures of Scott Brown, the next Senator from the Great State of Massachusetts.

It’s a helluva country, isn’t it?

More tomorrow.   Good night all….

What To Expect When the Polls Close Tonight: An Overview of the Political Landscape

Ok, I’m going to take a short break and see if I can get some snowshoeing in before settling in to watch returns.  Polls close at 8.  We’ll see how soon after that the race is called.  I think it will be some time. You can look for results as they come at the Massachusetts election results page (assuming it doesn’t crash!).

In the meantime, following up on my earlier post, I’ve pasted in a somewhat useful graphic that shows the relative support for McCain and Obama in 2008 across the state (source: Swing State Project.)

Having lived in the state most of my life and covered politics there, I have a decent idea of what you should be looking for as polls close.  Moving from west to east (left to right on the map), it goes like this:

Western Mass is sparsely populated in much of the Berkshires, but there’s a big population center in Springfield at the southern portion of the Connecticut River Valley.  Brown needs to do well with low-income, ethnic voters here who typically go Democratic but can vote Republican.  In the northern Connecticut River valley, expect Coakley to wrack up big numbers (places like Amherst and Northhampton.)

Brown has to win big in central mass – lots of former mill towns here just south of Worcester, as well as some bucolic rural areas in the Quabbin area and north of Worcester that tend to be fiscally conservative.  Coakley has to hope she can hold onto Democratic ethnic vote in Worcester proper, as well as in the Lowell area.

Brown’s support should extend east to rte. 495 and even toward 128. As you move east, however, communities become more affluent and support for Coakley will pick up particularly in the Lexington/Concord northern Rte. 128/95 area.  From Cambridge in, Coakley has to wrack up big margins, particularly in the Democratic base in Boston.

I see the areas southeast toward the Cape as potential bellwethers – they often vote Republican, but the Kennedy name is strong here too. Meanwhile, Brown will try to steal some votes in the more Catholic regions near the Rhode Island border.

Ok, that’s the lay of the land.  Put the beer on ice, make sure the popcorn is ready, set the cable to your favorite station (remember, we don’t get the cable here) and stay at this site.  I’ll be back on after some fresh air, and will stay until the  race is called or the scotch runs dry, whichever comes first.

Turnout, Tea Leaves and Exit Polls: Some Unscientific First Impressions

First, a reminder:  if you are on this site looking for leaked exit polls, don’t bother. There are no exit polls because no one envisioned the race being close enough to justify the expense. All we have to go on are snatches of information gleaned from various websites that may or may not be a) representative of what’s really happening and b) significant.

Meanwhile, trying to discern turnout from the various online news sources offers a fascinating insight into the psychology of Brown and Coakley supporters, but very little in the way of reliable news.  I’ve been switching between the websites of the two major Boston papers, the Globe and the Herald, both of which have live comments section describing what people are seeing at the polls.  For those of you not familiar with these papers, the Herald is a tabloid that caters to the shot and beer crowd, while the Globe (which is owned by the NY Times) attracts the Chablis sippers.  In my days living in Massachusetts, I read the Herald for the local news, and the Globe for national reporting. Not surprisingly, Brown supporters are out in force on the Herald site.  Surprisingly, however, they are frequenting the Globe website in about equal numbers with the Coakley supporters.  I did a rough count of about 200 respondents from the city of Boston, which is expected to be a strong Coakley area.   In my completely unscientific sample (keeping in mind that those who decide to write into the Globe are also a self-selected sample), Coakley was winning about 58% of the Boston Commenters’ votes.  Of  equal interest, turnout seemed to be, for want of a better word, “moderate” at least based on readers’ reports.  That seems consistent with Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s guesstimate of a turnout range of between 1.6 million and 2.2 million voters – or 40%-55% –  out of a total of 4 million registered voters.  Galvin said more than 105,000 voters have applied for absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, reading the comments on some of the more highly trafficked and opinionated websites is hilarious.  Every once in a while I’ll see something like this, usually from a Coakley supporter (since most of these websites tilt Left):  “Turnout through the roof!  Nary a Brown sign in sight!  Yes we can!”  I can’t tell if it’s whistling in the graveyard or a legitimate report.  But it’s entertaining!

More in a bit… .

How Do You Get to Capitol Hill? Turnout, Turnout, Turnout!

By now you know my caveat: that the only way that Coakley wins this race is if the polling turnout models are wrong.  So I want to spend some time discussing turnout.  Conventional wisdom has been saying for sometime that lower turnout helps Brown, while a higher turnout favors Coakley.   Of course, conventional wisdom also said Coakley was going to waltz to victory (and yes, even a week ago I shared that belief.) So, take it with the requisite grain of salt when I say that I no longer believe higher turnout necessarily favors Coakley.

The reason that higher turnout is supposed to favor Coakley is because registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3 to 1.  So, by dint of sheer numbers more voters must benefit Coakley.   We tend to forget, however, that Republicans have overcome this numbers deficit to win statewide office on more than one occasion, most frequently in the gubernatorial race.  How do Republicans win in this heavily Democratic state?  There is no single path to victory.  William Weld won by holding onto Republicans, fiscal conservatives but also winning over social libertarians in some of the more affluent communities. Paul Cellucci, his successor, drew more heavily from working class Democrats.  Mitt Romney benefitted by running against the specter of Democratic corruption in the State House.  This is where we begin to see the brilliance of Brown’s campaign:  he has positioned himself as a fiscal conservative who will cut taxes and hold down government spending, but has managed at the same time to distance himself from accusations that he is part of the social conservative wing of the Republican Party.  Moreover, he has portrayed Coakley as part of the Democratic establishment whose leaders, in a series of high profile cases, have been linked to corruption.  Meanwhile, he casts himself as a truck-driving middle class guy.  In short, Brown has taken a page out of each of the recent successful statewide runs by Republicans.

What this suggests to me is that broad gauge measures of turnout aren’t going to be particularly helpful in forecasting victory.  Instead, we want to know the variation in turnout by area.  In addition to bringing out Republicans, Brown’s victory hinges on his ability to draw conservative Catholic Democrats in areas like Springfield and Worcester as well as fiscally conservative independent suburbanites on the North Shore and the Metrowest corridor just west of Boston.  Coakley, meanwhile, needs a huge turnout from liberal affluent bedroom communities around Boston and in the liberal enclaves in western Mass as well as the Democratic base in Boston.

I’ll be on throughout the day to discuss what I’m hearing about turnout, but here’s the lay of the land. There are about 4.2 million registered voters in Massachusetts. As noted above, Democrats outnumber Republicans; among registered voters; 37 percent, or about 1.5 million, are Democrats versus 12 percent registered Republicans, or 490,000.  In the recent completed Democratic primary won by Coakley, less than half of registered Democrats – about 668,000 – turned out to vote.  In the Republican primary, turnout was even lower, with about 165,000 – about a third – of registered Republicans turning out.

How many will turnout today?  I’m guessing the closest approximation is a midterm election.  In 2006 – an admittedly high interest election – about 2.2 million vote were cast. Let’s assume, then, that this special election will attract at least 2 million voters, or about 48% turnout.  So for Brown to win this, he probably needs somewhere above 1 million votes. It’s been done before. When Mitt Romney won the 2002 gubernatorial race, he pulled in just over a million votes. Where does Brown get these votes?  Let’s assume his Republican base is very energized, and he gets 300,000 votes there (a shade over 60% of registered Republicans).  He needs to pick up 700,000 votes, largely from registered independents I’m guessing.  All told there are about 2.1 million independent voters (about 50% of all registered voters.)  Assuming 50% turnout among independents (I think this is probably on the low end), that means Brown must win a bit more than 6 of 10 independents. (This is all back of the envelope calculations, mind you. All statistics from the Massachusetts’  Secretary of State’s website.)  Can he do this?  A week ago I’d have said no.  But I have never seen anything like the polling surge I have observed this week.  That surge is captured in this truly amazing chart:.

In a matter of days, Coakley’s 15% polling lead turned into a 5% deficit.  This reflects, I think, the truncated nature of the campaign; voters simply began tuning in late, which made early polls misleading.  But it also captures the surge of enthusiasm for Brown’s candidacy as people began to pay attention.  I’ve really never seen anything like it.

That surge, and the evident voter discontent that’s fueling it, makes me think a high turnout race will actually benefit Brown.

We’ll know in a matter of hours.  I’ll be on later with a post explaining why I think this is NOT a referendum on Obama, or on health care.  Note, however, there will be no exit polling done.  So I’m going to have to rely on polling data to make my case.

Addendum (12:29): I’ve added a link to the Massachusetts elections website and gave additional information on independents.

Martha Coakley Will Win Tomorrow – According to Martha Coakley’s Internal Polls

If  this website is to be believed Martha Coakley is going to defy every recent poll I have seen and win the race tomorrow to replace Ted Kennedy.  The blogger tells us that “A Coakley campaign source insists the latest internal polling shows attacks on Brown as a ‘shill for Wall Street’ are resonating and pushing up Brown’s negatives, which perhaps explains the heavy populist emphasis of the Obama spot.  Still, the source concedes that the race is a toss up: The internals say she leads 48-46.”

So there you have it.  Coakley’s own internal poll has her up by 2%.  Obama’s appearance will stem the movement toward Brown, and instead Coakley will pull this out.

Meanwhile, every other public poll I have seen has Brown winning this race.  Charles Franklin puts it this way: “Republican Scott Brown holds a lead in all 18 alternative models of the Massachusetts Senate race polls, now including all polls released through 6:00 p.m. Monday. Our standard trend estimate puts the race at a 6.2 point Brown lead over Democrat Martha Coakley. The less sensitive alternative linear model puts the Brown lead at 7.3 points. Across all models, Brown leads by between 1.0 and 8.9 points. Three quarters of the estimates have Brown ahead by 4 points or more.”   Graphically, what Franklin is saying is this:

In other words, no matter how you slice the polling data, Brown wins this.

Here’s where you have to decide: heart or mind?  Do you let your emotions color your judgment, or do you let the evidence decide? Again and again during the 2008 presidential election I saw very smart people – many of them colleagues of mine – let their emotions rule their judgment regarding what was happening in that campaign. They became invested in a candidate – or against a candidate (Sarah Palin anyone?) – and that investment shaped their interpretation of the polling and voting evidence.  McCain supporters thought he might be able to pull the election out.  Obama supporters were convinced he had won a political mandate that meant a transformation in the way American politics would operate at the national level.  I’m seeing the same thing today, in sites like Nate Silver’s, where people are spinning extraordinary scenarios in which Coakley wins this race.  To believe that she wins, however, means ignoring a growing body of polling results that say Brown is poised to pull off the biggest political upset in recent memory.

And yet.  Call me an emotional person, or maybe it’s because I spent most of my life in Massachusetts, but I’m still having trouble accepting that Brown is going to pull this off – that a Republican is going to replace Ted Kennedy as a Senator from Massachusetts.    But how does Coakley prevent that from happening?   There is only one way in which these polling results are wrong, and that is because this is a special election – one in which conventional turnout models are wrong.  In other words, pollsters’ estimates of how many will vote, and in what proportions, are so far off that they are not accurately forecasting the results.  This is precisely what happened in the most recent special election in NY’s 23rd congressional district.  Jack would have us believe that possibility suggests our forecasts are no different than punditry.  I disagree.  Recognizing the uniqueness of a particular event is not punditry – it’s a warning that existing models of behavior don’t necessarily apply. Remember: The NY election had a unique twist: three candidates, with the Republican throwing her support behind the Democrat at the last minute.

The issue becomes: is there reason to believe that we should discount the polling data when trying to assess the likely outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race?  Is it that much of an unusual event?

Everything I know about Massachusetts, dating back to my time as a reporter for a local newspaper there, tells me Brown can’t win this.  The polling evidence says otherwise.

I’ve made a point of stressing that this blog is different from other blogs.  I follow the evidence.  It says, as of tonight, that Brown is poised to win this race.

Tomorrow I’ll explain why I think he will do so.