From 2008 to 2012, Colorado’s voter registration rose by 443,943 new voters (or 13.8%) and had the nation’s 2nd highest turnout behind Minnesota. The state also saw a 65 percent increase in mail ballot returns - credited to the electronic ballot delivery system and the extended grace period (8 days after Election Day).

On Election Day, Pres Obama defeated Mitt Romney by about 5 percentage points and won Colorado’s 9 electoral votes (Source).

(h/t: Michael Li)


The Limits of Citizens United?

Citizens United obviously altered the money equation in this year’s Presidential and Congressional elections, particularly in terms of the amounts spent on independent expenditures, which have grown exponentially since 2010 (Source); however, the results for the big money spenders wasn’t necessarily favourable.

As this analysis from OpenSecrets shows, conservative groups/individuals overwhelmingly outspent liberal groups/individuals, yet did not see much return on their dollar. The Center for Public Integrity looked at the amount spent in selected races and found that the outside spending did not have a significant impact, and the Sunlight Foundation broke down the return on investment.

That was in the General Election. The results in the primary were somewhat different, and just from a scan of the results, it would appear that they had more success in primary elections, as this report from Stuart Rothenberg noted in May.

As Rothenberg suggests, the effect of Citizens United may be that the candidates become increasingly ideological, as “a small group of wealthy ideologues will use the new organizations to nominate and elect a large enough number of extreme Members.” When combined with redistricting efforts that promote ideological extremes, it may exponentially increase the changes of success for less moderate candidates.

This would seem to coincide with recent research regarding the effect of Citizens United (see here and here) suggesting that the new sources of campaign funds have not really impacted the partisan balance.


Party Platforms: What Are They Worth?

Walter Russell Mead recently wrote, “Party platforms are worthless mounds of drivel that have no impact on what U.S. leaders of either party actually do.”

Certainly, no President is going to have their feet held to the fire for not adhering strictly to the party platform; however, the platforms do give us some insight into the beliefs and philosophy of the parties themselves, or rather, the base of the party, which is why I think they’re worth reading (and comparing them to past platforms). So, while they may be complete drivel, they’re not completely worthless.

My own personal interest in the platforms extends to foreign policy. For example, it’s been noted that the 2012 GOP platform contains mention of conspiracy theorists’ bugaboo Agenda 21 (Source). Meanwhile, the Democratic platform and the resulting ridiculousness on the convention floor show some disconnect within the party over Israel (Source).

Don’t expect Obama or Romney, whichever is elected, to govern strictly according to their party’s platform, because pragmatic concerns will generally require some shift from a pure ideological stance. However, if you want some idea of what is going on inside either party, the platforms, as well as the battles over them, are a good place to start, and over the coming days, I hope to dig a little deeper into both parties’ foreign policy stances (that is, if I’m not buried to my eyeballs in fundraising mail).


Voter ID, Pennsylvania & November

Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson recently ruled that the state’s Voter ID law could be implemented in time for Election Day (Source). The judge reportedly stated that the petitioners had not established that disenfranchisement as a result of the law would be inevitable or immediate. You can read his opinion here [pdf].

nowwithbmiller states, “Ladies and gentleman, this is how Mitt Romney will win the race.” I’m sure this a common sentiment among many, and one that I have seen expressed here, on Twitter and other media outlets; however, it’s not really an accurate assessment of the effects of the Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law.

Regardless of what partisans on either side think, this isn’t likely to help Romney much in turning Pennsylvania into a swing state, as we can see from Nate Silver’s recent post on the subject, which I discussed last month. At this time, I will quote some of Silver’s observations.

On sensational reporting vs accurate reporting of Voter ID law effects:

News media accounts, like some of those about the new voter ID laws in Pennsylvania, sometimes seize on the most dramatic estimates of the effects of these laws — rather than the most accurate ones.

On the possible effect in 2012:

Pennsylvania, for instance, went from having no voter ID laws to a strict photo ID requirement. Based on the academic studies, I estimate that this will reduce turnout by about 2.4 percent as a share of registered voters. And based on my formula to convert changes in turnout to changes in the popular vote, I estimate that this would reduce President Obama’s margin against Mitt Romney by a net of 1.2 percentage points.

On what this effect means:

The effects of the adjustment are ultimately fairly minor. In Pennsylvania, for instance, it reduced Mr. Obama’s chances of winning the state to 82.6 percent from 84.2 percent, according to the model’s estimate. Still, it makes Pennsylvania a little closer, and slightly increases the chance that it will be the tipping point state in the election.

Long story short: there could be a potential reduction in turnout of 2.4 percent of registered voters [198,535 voters (Source)]; however, this does not significantly increase Romney’s chances of winning the state, and any potential reduction in turnout can be offset by provisional balloting, etc.

(via bmillernow-deactivated20121013)


I might be the only person in the blogosphere (or at least, one of the few) who defends negative advertising, and a recent survey by YouGov shows that voters aren’t necessarily turned off by negative ads - depending on their content. As the charts from YouGov show, voters find negative ads which point out differences between the candidates to be helpful; however, ads which criticize a candidate’s family to not be helpful (there are some other charts as well). As YouGov notes, positive ads usually only offer platitudes and little substance, whereas negative ads - more so if they’re done correctly - offer more information for voters about the candidates (because they’re telling you things about the candidate he/her wouldn’t say about themselves).

I’m not ashamed to be a fan of negative ads - with one caveat: they have to be factual. A negative that isn’t factual will not be effective and will backfire on the candidate.


Presidential Politics: the Religious Voter

With the announcement that President Obama was giving his full support to gay marriage, there has been some speculation that he has damaged himself among black voters who oppose gay marriage (55 percent to 42). One Time contributor has said that Obama has made “a courageous bet that black voters won’t punish him.”

Except black voters have not been shown to vote on social issues, but rather on economic issues, particularly those related to poverty and low income.* As discussed previously on this blog when Gallup released their poll on religion and partisanship, the religiosity of black voters has little impact on their partisan voting behaviour, i.e., they will vote for the Democratic candidate regardless of whether they are very religious or non-religious. Indeed, black voters have voted in particularly high numbers for Democratic candidates since FDR, and exit polls in 2000, 2004 and 2008 showed black support for Gore at 90, Kerry at 88, and Obama at 95 percent.

On the other hand, evangelical voters are not wild about Romney - giving him less support (69 percent) than Bush (79) and McCain (73) - however, they support him more than Obama, and his support among evangelicals has increased from 40 percent in October 2011. You can read the results of that survey here.

Despite any distractions about religious voting demographics - whether it is black voters and gay marriage, or evangelicals and Romney - this election will turn on what is has turned since the Republican nomination began last year, and that is, the economy and the voter’s perception of it.

* I think some clarification is in order here. Voters at the lower end of the income spectrum make decisions based primarily on their economic situation. Since many black voters are unfortunately at the lower end of the income spectrum, their decisions, according to studies, are based on their situation, as with other low income voters.


Seems like this has been a recurring theme over the last several years in the Texas press, i.e., Texas Democrats donate more to out-of-state candidates than they do to in-state candidates.

In this cycle, Texas Democrats have given $21 million, but only $4.8 million has gone to Texas candidates. The Texas Democratic Party even spent money on advertising in Alabama back in August 2011.

Of course, the lack of competitive candidates has had an impact on the giving of Texas Democrats, and with no winning statewide candidates since 1994 and no statewide officeholders since 1998, there isn’t really anyone to give to. As the Chronicle notes, the Texas Senate race is an example of this, because Texas Democrats have given only $135 thousand to Texas Senate candidates, but $3.7 million to other Senate candidates across the country.


The 2012 Republican Veepstakes

One of the things we’re already hearing a lot about, and will continue to hear about until the GOP convention, is the debate - or rather, guessing - over who Romney will pick as his Vice Presidential nominee.

Every four years, various members of the media ask the same old questions, one of which is whether or not certain VP candidates will help the nominee to win particular states, specifically the home state of the VP nominee.

In May 1989, Robert Dudley and Ronald Rapoport revealed some interesting statistics about the perceived importance of regional importance in selecting a Vice Presidential candidate - they noted that between 1952 and 1980, only 1 ticket did not show regional balance and between 1884 and 1984 only 5 out of 52 tickets were not regionally balanced (American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 537-540). Their study showed that in these elections the VP nominee only made a difference in 3 elections (1892, 1968 & 1980), and thus was not a significant factor in voter choice. Lee Sigelman and Paul Wahlbeck came to a similar conclusion in 1997 (American Political Science Review, Vol. 91, No. 4, pp. 855-864).

Recent polls would seem to confirm these studies. A poll by PPP showed that Romney received no bounce in Florida with Rubio hypothetically on the ticket (of course, PPP is a Democratic polling firm, and there have been accusations about bias in the past, but they have been fairly accurate during this primary cycle). Similarly, recent polling by Quinnipiac University shows that Ohio Senator Rob Portman would offer no help to Romney in this crucial swing state (Sources: CNN, Wall Street Journal).


Gallup showing a dead heat in swing states

Gallup has been polling Obama and Romney head to head in 12 potential swing states. Their poll in March showed a big lead for the President, but as Romney has become the presumptive nominee (yes, Paul has picked up some delegates, but not enough yet to prevent Romney from getting the nomination), that lead has narrowed. Among voters who are certain they will vote for one candidate or the other, Obama has a 4 point lead.

A poll from George Washington University for Politico also shows a dead heat in the battleground states that will determine who the next President will be.

As discussed previously, Romney has a small margin for error, and a lot of money will be spent in states like Ohio and Virginia, not to mention some of the states out West.


Voter Registration Down Among Hispanics, Blacks


Republican voter suppression in effect. They want you have as many hurdles as possible, scare as many old people and minorities. The poll tax is essentially back.

Except this is a nationwide trend, as the Washington Post article notes, and voter ID laws have only been passed in a few states (and in some of those few, the laws have not gone into effect, because they require clearance from the Justice Department, which they have not received, e.g., Texas and South Carolina).

The article also identifies decreased early voting as a dilemma; however, as previously discussed on this blog, reducing the early voting period doesn’t really effect voter turnout, and in fact, early voting may actually decrease turnout.

And among those asked about the issue, such as Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute, the explanation seems to be job losses and home foreclosure, which have lead to dislocation/migration (which in turn has lead to a decrease in voter registration because people have re-registered).