Category Archives: Republicans

Cleveland Rocks! But Probably Not Enough To Influence The 2016 Presidential Race

The Republican Party announced today that the party’s 2016 nominating convention will be held in Cleveland. The choice seems driven by the hope that it may influence the presidential vote in Ohio, which is likely to once again be a key swing state in the next presidential election. But if this is the hope, Republicans are likely to be disappointed. There is no evidence of which I am aware that the location of a convention influences the outcome of a presidential race. Indeed, the research – what little of it there is – suggests it will make no difference.

By way of background, some time back I reviewed an excellent paper written by Ben Lauderdale and Drew Linzer that cast a jaundiced eye on the ability of political scientists to forecast the outcome of presidential elections based on the so-called fundamentals, such as the status of the economy or whether the U.S. was at war or peace. Linzer, as some of you might recall, created the Votamatic website that used state-based polling to predict long before anyone (I think Drew issued his first prediction in June!) that Obama would win the 2012 presidential election with 331 electoral college votes. That prediction, as it turns out, was exactly correct. Note that on this website Drew utilized a Bayesian forecast model that essentially established a set of prior expectations rooted in Alan Abramowitz’s “time-for-a-change” forecast model, but then updated the Abramowitz forecast by incorporating state-based polls as they came in. By the time election day came around, Linzer’s model was almost entirely driven by state-based polls – it had largely discarded the Abramowitz forecast – and it nailed the final tally right on the nose.

Despite (because of!) this success, Linzer and his coauthor are skeptical regarding the accuracy of fundamentals-only based forecast models. In the Lauderdale/Linzer paper I reviewed, the authors argue “that it is a mistake to take any of these fundamentals-based model predictions too seriously.”  Elsewhere I will discuss why they are skeptical of most forecast models.  However, having cast doubt on the ability of traditional forecast models to predict the national vote with any degree of precision, the authors then proceed to present their own Bayesian forecast model, based on the 16 elections during the period 1952-2012. This model deliberately incorporates many of the elements in the most popular structural forecast models, but in a way designed to allow “the data to reveal which among a potentially large set of candidate variables are most predictive, letting forecasters remain agnostic about the economic and political factors that ‘really’ matter for predicting elections.” I will leave it to you to peruse their findings (although I find it somewhat reassuring that some of the usual suspects, such as economic measures, do seem statistically correlated with outcomes, albeit with a high degree of uncertainty).

I hope to discuss their results in a later post. For the purposes of today’s announcement by Republicans regarding the convention location, however, one of their findings is particularly relevant: Lauderdale and Linzer include a variable designed to measure the impact of a party’s convention on the presidential vote share!  They conclude, with what surely will disappoint Republicans, that “There is little evidence that the location of the national convention is predictive…” To be sure, the authors are careful to note that their forecast model also contains a great deal of uncertainty. Nonetheless, there’s nothing in the paper to suggest that choosing Cleveland will help Republicans win Ohio.

If there’s no evidence that convention location has much discernible impact on the presidential vote, then why choose Cleveland? The short answer is – why not? Doubtless party officials comforted themselves by noting that no Republican candidate has won the presidency without winning Ohio. Of course, there’s a whole list of election-related nostrums like this that are of dubious relevance.  Still, there’s no evidence it will hurt the party’s chances and there’s always the chance that, the Lauderdale/Linzer finding notwithstanding (and I have no evidence Republican party officials are even aware of the paper!) that it might help at the margins. In short, the decision was likely driven by the same reasoning that leads candidates to kiss every baby and shake every hand – they don’t know if it will help their electoral prospects, but it probably can’t hurt.

[UPDATE 12:03 Wednesday. Harry Enten has some data that comes to the same conclusion as Lauderdale/Linzer: convention location doesn’t matter.  See here.]

For now, however, I’m sticking with political science. Cleveland Rocks – but probably not when it comes to influencing the presidential election!

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Go Ahead, Make My Convention

In my most recent post for the Economist, I argued that both Mitt Romney and President Obama were likely to fall short of the 5% average convention-driven polling bounce received by presidential candidates in prior years, although I expected Romney to get a very slightly bigger bump than the President. This was for two reasons.  First, neither candidate is polling much lower than one might expect, given the fundamentals.  So there’s not a lot of room to grow polling support based on the convention alone. Second, because the Democratic convention, which starts tomorrow, follows so closely on the heels of the Republican convention, which ended last Thursday, the two  events are likely to cut into each other’s bump somewhat.  However, because Obama is the better known of  the two,  I  thought Romney had slightly more polling upside because some people would use the convention as their first opportunity to assess his candidacy.

So far, the post-convention polls – and there haven’t been very many as yet – are consistent with the first part of my argument: Romney has received a smaller than average polling bump.  In Rasmussen’s three-day tracking poll,  Romney appears to have gained 6% from its pre-convention figures.  However, that is based on a starting poll that probably was something of an outlier among Rasmussen’s recent tracking results, since it showed Obama leading Romney by 2%.  For most of the last few weeks, however, Rasmussen has had the race tied or Romney slightly ahead.  If we adjust the  starting point to the more typical Rasmussen tracking poll results showing the race a dead heat, it appears that Romney gained perhaps a 2-3% polling bounce, rather than 6%. That’s pretty much what I expected.

Meanwhile, in its seven-day tracking poll, Gallup is showing no polling bump for Romney; the race remains essentially  a dead heat, with Obama up 47-46%, about where it has been for a couple of weeks  now.  Of course, the 7-day average only includes two days of polling for the period after the RNC ended, so it may not be picking up the full convention impact.   Gallup may have a better gauge tomorrow, when a full four days of post-convention polling is available.

In the RealClearPolitics composite polling average, Obama’s lead has shrunk from 1.4% on the day before the convention to .3% today.  At, Obama pre-convention polling lead has barely budged, from .7% before the convention to .1% today. Of course, both composite polls include the Rasmussen tracking poll in their composite results, and not much else, so I wouldn’t read very much into either one.

Inevitably, some pundits are going to blame the lack of a polling bump on Dirty Harry’s – er, Clint Eastwood’s unscripted and sometimes rambling 10-minute address during the Convention’s last night, a speech that culminated with the crowd repeating one of Clint’s more iconic lines:

[youtube  /watch?v=2pQwbRPwccY]

Not surprisingly, reactions to Clint’s speech broke down neatly along partisan lines.  Obama supporter Steven Benen pointed out that Clint’s speech mocked Obama’s decision to first increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan before drawing down American forces, rather than withdrawing troops at the start of his presidency. Unfortunately, a troop  drawdown is not Romney’s position either.  The National Review’s Mark Steyn, on the other hand, thought Clint’s chair-talking effectively targeted undecided voters who might have tuned into the RNC event.  Steyn concludes, “Incidentally, I’m not generally in favor of what Rob Long would call “working blue,” but, if you’re going to do it, doing anatomically impossible sex-act cross-talk with an invisible presidential straight-man in front of the Republican Convention is definitely the way to go.”

I’m not sure Clint’s performance moved the needle in either direction, but it surely got people talking about the convention, which is typically an eminently forgettable event.  For that alone, I think Clint’s speech was a hit.  Still, given what was at stake for Romney, more than one critic is wondering why he allowed Romney to appear on stage without first vetting Clint’s speech.  I think the answer to that one is pretty obvious:

[youtube   /watch?v=3ishbTwXf1g&feature=related]

You got that, punk?

Live Blogging the Republican Convention

8:15 Sorry for the late start.  Hope you can join in – just hit the comments button to the right.

So, so far the Republican have trotted out one woman after another.  Do you think  they are aware of the gender gap?

Remember, every politician who gets a plum speaking assignment is hoping to reprise Obama’s 2004 performance and catch lightning in a bottle.

Love that New England accent – a “leaduh”!

By the way, we are watching this on C-SPAN.   Not sure when the national networks are going to cover this.

John Kasich has come fully caffeinated.

Btw, the pundits are constantly over analyzing the content of these speeches.  They are not meant to be policy seminars – they are meant to sketch out broad themes to invigorate the base and maybe draw in first-time listeners…

First campaign ad is up – and what do you know?  It’s a business owner mocking Obama’s “You didn’t build that” speech.  I see a theme here.

Wow, still another woman speaker!

Expect to see a lot of homestate references – Gov. Fallin just trotted out the “that dog don’t hunt” saying.  Cue Dan Rather.

(Joe – Have to agree – you never diss someone else’s golf game in public.  Unless it’s Charles Barkley’s.)

Another “you didn’t built that” ad.  I get it.

Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is on.  Another potential VP candidate.  The consolation prize for all of them is apparently a speaking gig at the convention.

Twitter feed people are mocking coverage on major cable stations – too much punditry, not enough speeches.  But it is a reminder that this is not showing on national networks as yet.

The other point to keep in mind is that at least some of these speakers are in line for a post in Romney’s administration.  McDonnel is likely one of them.

McDonnell is introducing another business owner – a woman, to boot.  Do we see a theme here?

On the twitter feed, Obama backers are trying to put the “somebody invested in roads and bridges” where it came in the actual quote.  Not going to make a difference tonight.  Do you think Obama regrets that statement?

Republicans are doing a good job moving this along.  That’s good, because there haven’t been a lot of barnburners speeches so far.

this may change. Scott Walker – the Republican hero who beat back the recall vote in Wisconsin – is up, to big applause.

So far, the Republicans are staying on message.  Nary a mention of a social  issue.

A musical interlude!  A good chance to see what the other stations are running….nothing.

Back to CSPAN – Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is on.  Another key battleground state.

Rick Santorum is on deck.  Will he pivot to social issues, or stay on the economic message?

One of the things that I think pundits have overplayed is that Romney needs to become more “likable” during this convention.   I don’t think that is going to affect very many votes, one way or the other….

Before Santorum, however, another small business owner – this one from New Mexico.

This time a different Obama speech – the famous “bump in the road” speech.

and here’ s Rick – no sweater vest!

Rick gives a shoutout to his 90+ year old Mom, and then to his son who is a cadet …. let’s see if he stays on message.

So far, so good.  It’s all about the economy, stupid.

But it couldn’t last.  Rick is on to family values, although he’s trying very very hard to link it to the economy.  But he really can’t help himself…In Rick’s defense, he’s trying very hard to link family values, and God, to economic prosperity.

Here’s a nice line – “I shook the hand of the American Dream, and it was strong”…..

And he’s on a lyrical riff here, using the hand metaphor….and here comes the Bella story.

Rick has hit the mark.  Best speech so far….but then he’s had practice.

Meanwhile, the twitter pundits are screeching about Republicans inaccurately claiming that Obama is repealing the welfare work requirement.  He’s not, but that’s not going to stop the Republicans!

In the end, despite the pivot to his social  issues, this was a good speech by Santorum – but I do wonder whether it was more about him than Romney.  I’m guessing the Romney folk are hoping his attacks on Obama resonated.

Next up, another rising star in the Republican field:  U.S Senate candidate Ted Cruz, who – backed by the Tea party – secured the Republican nomination.  He’s speaking without standing behind the podium.  Here’s his chance to shine…. Cruz is laying into Obama, and making an appeal to Hispanic voters.  But he’s largely staying on message…..uh oh, the reference to learning English may prove to be a lightening rod for some….

And now it is Artur!  Olivier Knox claims his speech is scathing.  Remember – four years ago he was nominating Obama!

I’m sitting back to listen.  I’ll be back later….

Artur is on a roll…..

Well, that was the red meat special so far – the right wing twitter feed is lighting up.  They like Artur.  Even more impressive, Obama supporters are taking the time to take his speech down a notch.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is on, while Ann Romney waits in the wings…..

Haley is solid – and here’s Ann, with prime time coverage clicking in.  She’s going to try to “humanize” Mitt, no doubt.

And she’s going to talk about “love”.

(BTW, Matt Drudge has leaked the draft text of the Chris Christie speech – it’s reprinted here:

Meanwhile, Ann begins with an open appeal to women voters.  Remember, Mitt is staring at a huge gender gap….

I don’t find efforts by any Romney to highlight their poor roots very believable.

Ann is doing a much better job when she talks about the reality of marriage.

I have to think this is the best speech of the night….she’s doing a wonderful job…..and here’s the money line… Mitt wasn’t handed success….”he built it”!  cue applause….

And here she’s trying to make Bain a selling point for Mitt – Can she pull that off?

A heckuva speech.  I can see portions of it excerpted for campaign ads.  She is getting a well deserved standing O, and Mitt comes out to join here. Television gold….

Chris Christie coming up….and here’s the preparation with an introductory campaign ad.

Hard to follow that speech, but Christie is probably the guy who can do it. ..

so far, this has been a lot about Christie – not much Mitt so far…..and the tone is an abrupt switch.  We’ve gone from “love” to “what the ‘eff I can get done.”  Think “tough love”….

so far, not much Romney here…..

This is a helluva speech – for Christie.  Is he going to mention Romney’s name?

Ah, he finally does, but Mitt doesn’t look comfortable. I’m afraid that Chris is milking this speech about five minutes too long – he’s pushing Bill Clinton territory.  time to wrap it up Chris…

and he does, but not before imploring the audience to stand up for Mitt (which they do)… to hand it to Chris.  An effective speech – but it probably worked better for him than for Mitt…Note that Chris finished at 10:59 – just in time for the late news!

That’s the wrap for day 1.  I’m switching over to the Red Sox but will try to recap tomorrow……..good night all……

Final thoughts: I think Ann’s speech was the highlight of the night, while Artur was the most effective at riling up the base.  Christie was solid, but there was too much “I” and not enough “Mitt”.

Keep in mind that there a tendency to overreact to any single speech – in the end, all anyone will likely remember is what Mitt says – and maybe not even that.

More in a bit….




Convention Bumps, Race-Baiting and those “Old, Lefty Professors” (Who, Moi?)

It’s been a busy day so far – and the night promises be even busier.  In addition to my post on Artur Davis, one of tonight’s convention speakers, I’ve got another piece just up at the Economist in which I argue that neither Obama nor Romney is likely to get a major polling bump coming out of their respective conventions, but that Romney’s is likely to be bigger than Obama’s by a couple of percentage points.  In a tight race, of course, a 2% net gain may be enough to push Mitt into the lead.  There are signs – so far ignored by most of the media as far as I can tell – that the race is beginning to tighten just a bit.   When I come up for air, I’ll try to post some of the latest poling data to show you what I mean.

Tonight, however, I’m going to be live blogging the Republican Convention.  In case you missed it, Republican delegates formally nominated Mitt as their candidate today. While the media tends to dismiss the convention as a scripted, made-for-television event, that misses its real significance.  As Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan argues in this piece conventions in fact serve as an important learning tool and informational source for voters who are just beginning to tune into the presidential race.  So we ought not to dismiss the event as mere pageantry.  Instead, view this as the opening volley in the general campaign.

There’s another reason to watch tonight, of course – it’s to see the speeches.  Several major figures, including House Speaker John Boehner, are on tap.  Of course, all eyes will be focused on my former student (Ok, my eyes will be!) Artur Davis, who continues to attract controversy for his decision to split from the Democratic Party.  In response to the broadside leveled at him by the Congressional Black caucus earlier today, Davis returned the favor, accusing them of “race baiting.” His comments come as both sides are trying to inject race into the campaign.  Conservatives have been circulating this NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing not a single African-American respondent supporting Mitt.  Obama supporters have fired back, pointing out that Romney’s recent comments at a Michigan campaign rally regarding his birth certificate is one of those “dog whistles” designed to stir up racial “resentment.”  Davis’ comments are sure to add fuel to the fire.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Olivier Knox’s Yahoo piece on my Davis post, you should take a look, focusing in particular on the readers’ comments.  As with most comments, they are decidedly partisan, and not for the faint of heart (or for those who value grammar, spelling or punctuation).  Thus:

“All of the southern dixie crats switched to the repug party after 1965 check it out. Now the repugs have all of the racest members from the south on their side.”

“Well at least Arthur we know what his academic record was at Harvard…..still waiting for Obama to release his school transcripts…you think the liberal news media could do a story about that!!”

And my favorite:  “That’s the Ticket . Attacking black conservatives in support of the candidate the liberal media sold us – Barack Obama . Great work yahoo once again. Digging up an old leftist college professor to call Davis a weasel. Very balanced .”

Imagine that!  I’m both “old” and a “leftist college professor”!  Who knew?

I’ll be live blogging beginning at 8 – unless Artur comes on earlier.   Hope you can join me – it’s been a while since we’ve done one, and the scotch bottle is full.

UPDATE:  According to the C-SPAN scroll, Davis is speaking at 9:46 – he’s the lead-in to Ann Romney’s speech.  Primetime!

Tonight’s Primaries: Move Along, There’s Nothing To See Here

Between conference papers, grading, reading journal submissions and prepping for lecture, I couldn’t live blog tonight even if I wanted to, but I did want to post a brief update on the state of the nomination race after today’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  The short story is that this is a good night for Mitt Romney who, the networks are projecting, is likely to win all three contests.   More importantly, he’s likely to win 80 or more delegates tonight, leaving Rick Santorum to take maybe a dozen delegates, give or take a few.   None of this is surprising, given the demographics of the three states.  In Wisconsin, evangelicals constituted about 37% of voters, according to exit polls – far below the 50% threshold that has to date signified a certain Santorum victory. In Maryland they constituted 38% of the vote. At this point in the race, much as we saw in the latter stages of the Democratic primary fight in 2008, demographics are destiny, and the demographics of these three states favored Romney.

Meanwhile, media pundits are clearly hoping to create the impression that the Republican race is over by talking about the momentum Romney will pick up because of his victories tonight.  The reality is that Romney’s victories tonight may affect the media coverage, but they likely will have almost no impact on the next set of primaries which take place on April 24, and which will include Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania.  (Amy Walter is now tweeting that the Wisconsin results finally put an end to the Republican primary because he did better among some demographic groups than he did among those groups in Ohio.  This is nonsense, of course.)    Note that in both Wisconsin and Maryland, Romney’s support, once again, increases as we go up the income ladder. However, he did increase his support among lower income voters, relative to Santorum, at least in Wisconsin, compared to how he did in previous Midwestern contests.   But given the margin of error in exit polls, it’s not clear this really signifies an expansion of his support.  Note that as in previous contests, his support also increases among older voters.

Interestingly, among those voters who made up their mind today in Wisconsin (13% of voters), Santorum was the clear victor, 46%-27%; among the 35% who made up their mind in “the last few days”, Santorum won 42%-39%.  I’m not quite sure what to make of this.    In other shocking news – at least shocking to those watching the CNN coverage – Santorum once again does as well among women as he does among men in both Maryland and Wisconsin.  Hard to believe, I know, given his statements about abortion, contraception, etc.  He also outperforms his polling support in both Wisconsin and Maryland – not that this matters all that much in terms of delegates.  But it does indicate that Romney hasn’t changed the dynamics of this race.

Bottom line tonight?  The media will come out strong tomorrow about how tonight’s results indicate that Romney has  regained momentum and is poised to close this nomination fight out.  The reality is that tonight’s results change nothing; Romney went into tonight as the frontrunner, and he will come out as the frontrunner, but there’s no evidence that he’s gaining “momentum” or expanding his coalition.

Again, I apologize for the decrease in blogging frequency, but my day job is calling with increased frequency in recent days.