Thursday, November 8, 2012

Questions About House Elections 2012

I don't have the answers to these, but I'm sure someone will after a while, and I'm very interested to hear them. By the way, this reminds me that I need to plug Brendan Nyhan's excellent column about what reporters could do better with election results, including the key point that reporters aren't well-situated to immediately offer causal explanations for relationships which scholars will tease out (and often fight over) for years. At any rate, here are the questions I'm wondering about in House elections 2012:

1. What effect to redistricting and gerrymanders actually play? This one is getting a lot of early emphasis from upset Democrats, but that doesn't mean that it actually mattered, or if so how much it mattered. (For what it's worth: my experience is that people are really fond of gerrymandering as an explanation for things, whether or not it's actually true). There's certainly some evidence, but nothing conclusive yet.

2. What effect, if any, did big outside money have? The emerging conventional wisdom is that most of the outside money on the presidential race was wasted (which many of us had anticipated), and that a lot of outside money on Senate races was wasted, too -- that one I'm not sure of, although certainly a lot of it went to losers. But what about House contests? That's where $1M or more coming in unopposed surely might have made a difference. Did it? If so, how much, and in how many districts?

(See, by the way, Matt Glassman's general comments about SuperPACs and wasted money).

3. What was the effect of candidate recruitment in this cycle? In particular: in Senate races, Democrats appear to have had a massive advantage in recruitment. Was that not true of House contests? If not, why not? I've been arguing that there's a systematic reason to expect GOP recruiting difficulties, and the Senate campaigns appeared to be evidence that the effect was real; what about the House?

12 comments:

  1. On the subject of gerrymandering, the GOP has pursued that much more aggressively than the Democrats, and has been much more successful with it. Are there states Romney won that have Democratic delegations? Doubtful. California has non-partisan redistricting, so they can't offset the GOP there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking at the map, it looks as though every state Romney won has a majority Republican delegation. The nearest thing to an exception is Arizona which looks to have a 5 R/4 D split (although two races haven't been called yet).

      On the other side, Republicans have majorities in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin - all states that Republicans had complete control of during redistricting, I believe. North Carolina also has a pretty crazily gerrymandered map.

      The only state that looks obviously gerrymandered for the Democrats is Maryland, whose districts meander in terrifying patterns the mere contemplation of which would drive most men mad.

      A big reason for this is probably simply that the Republicans controlled more states due to their 2010 midterm victories.

      Delete
    2. Massachusetts is gerrymandered, although it actually got better with redistricting this year.

      Delete
  2. Sam Wang has written about #1 some. It looks to me like the outcome is broadly as he suggests - a structural advantage of a couple of points to the GOP in this cycle from redistricting/gerrymandering/incumbency.

    http://election.princeton.edu/2012/10/04/quantifying-the-effect-of-redistricting/
    http://election.princeton.edu/2012/10/06/predictions-october-6th-house/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Another good question about the election in general: where will the GOP go from here? Ed Killgore had a good piece at TNR paralleling the (and his) experience of the DLC in the 80's and 90's with where the GOP is at today. He argues that the situation is actually quite different and anyone who tries to change the GOP in the near future is probably off on a fools errand. As he put it: "I have often been asked whether a clear defeat of Mitt Romney on November 6, of the sort we saw yesterday, might drive Republicans to create a similar party-changing “centrist” organization. The short answer is “no.” (And I’m tempted to say the long answer is “Hell, no!”)"

    Seeing as the House is probably where most of the GOP "action" will be in the near future i think this matters a lot.

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/109864/why-the-gop-needs%E2%80%94-wont-get%E2%80%94its-own-bill-clinton

    ReplyDelete
  4. @longwalk, I think that's about right. Romney was so flawed within the party that his loss will likely end up resting mostly on his shoulders. If the nominee had been, say, Paul Ryan, it might be different. I think things may have to get even worse; we may need the spectacle of a nominee like Palin or Ryan suffering a landslide defeat before it really becomes clear that the answer isn't, "We weren't conservative enough."

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think in Pennsylvania the problem is not so much "redistricting" as "districting". The state's 500,000-person Democratic majority is entirely accounted for by Philadelphia and its immediate suburbs. Proportional representation might be approximated by having eight congressional districts each snaking a tendril into the city. But that would be quite hilarious gerrymandering! Instead we have Bob Brady, Chakah Fattah and Allyson Schwartz each getting 90% of the vote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's certainly gerrymandering, though, if you look at the map - they made sure to concentrate all of Philadelphia and its most Democratic suburbs in three 70-90% Democratic districts, so as to allow for four 55-60% Republican districts in the suburbs. Probably the area represented by the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, and 16th Districts should have 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans, and instead it has 3 Democrats and 4 Republicans.

      They also split the Lehigh Valley (always a very closely divided swing district) in two, so as to group part of it with Scranton in a Democratic district while leaving the rest as a safe Republican district stretching as far as Harrisburg. in the 11 non-Philly area districts, I'd think a 7-4 or 6-3 R-D split would probably be closer to proportional than a 9-2, although I guess Critz lost a very close race in the 12th that could conceivably go the other way another year.

      Delete
  6. Re: #2: I think the story is similar at the House level. I live in a district (CA-9) where the NRCC blew at least $2.5 million (through 10/17) trying to unseat a three-term quasi-incumbent (Jerry McNerney; his house was drawn out of the district, but it overlapped most of his prior district) with a 25-year-old neophyte (Ricky Gill). The Chamber of Commerce added another $500K (through 10/17) to the losing effort. In contrast, the DCCC spent just $650K (through 10/17). It made for some fun ads--Solyndra was a popular term--and a near constant stream of mail, but McNerney won comfortably 54 to 46.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'd like to know how demographic turnover ties into this question (and upcoming and state level elections too). Age is a primary indicator of political preference on on all sorts of questions: climate change, gay marriage, universal health insurance, etc. 6 years ago every Wisconsin county but one approved a gay marriage ban--now the have the 1st gay Senator. It's plausible demographic turnover played a role in this sudden reversal. According to some exit polls, Obama carried the 30-44 cohort by seven and the 18-29 by 23 points. How do these cohorts break down by race, state, and precinct? Is it possible that even if Dylan Mathew's redistricting nightmare is accurate that demographic turnover could help in at least some states?

    ReplyDelete
  8. The story behind all that Citizens United money is going to be delicious to watch unfold. I suspect that American Crossroads sunk all that cash into TV advertising either because that's what its donors wanted, or because that was the easiest way to show off their work to the donors. Nothing gets a casino mogul's blood flowing like seeing 30 seconds worth of hatred directed at the American president.

    But it became very clear, long before the end of the campaign, that that was a foolish way to spend all that money. The parade of TV ads during the local news in every swing state became a running joke, with the discussion focused on how every single viewer was tuning them out rather than being affected by them. Crossroads would have been much better off funding local offices and working on GOTV activities - but those might not be sexy enough for a right-wing billionaire.

    ReplyDelete
  9. In New York the Legislature couldn't get its act together to accomplish the redistricting this time around (this is not particularly surprising), and it was done by a court-appointed magistrate. In the election, I believe, three districts changed party. Out by Buffalo, Kathy Hochul, the Democrat who won a GOP district in a special election by targeting Paul Ryan's budget proposal, lost this time. On the other hand, two Tea Partiers who entered Congress in 2010 were turned out. Anne Marie Buerkle (Syracuse) lost to the same Democrat she defeated last time, Dan Maffei. (I believe he had only been in office for one term. I don't think that one is a traditionally Democratic seat, but it's not the same district it was last time, either.) In the Hudson Valley, Nan Hayworth lost to Sean Patrick Maloney, a former Bill Clinton aide. Previously, the seat had been held by John Hall (formerly of the band Orleans) for one or two terms; before that it was Republican. I heard a lot of radio ads directed against Maloney and sponsored by people other than Hayworth. I don't recall hearing any for him. Oh, and Rochester's Louise Slaughter, now 82, is still hanging in there. I understand she was also the target of a lot of outside money.

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?