Fairfax County Margin: Prediction Revised Sharply Upward

October 16, 2008

Two factors have caused me to revise my mid-September prediction. First, the final official registration totals have been tallied and while I had estimated 660,000 registrants, the actual number is slightly higher at 664,798. Second, the Obama wave in our area is apparent more than ever. Even my optimistic percentages seem conservative at this point.

My new prediction is a margin of 139,567 votes. An admittedly almost absurd margin. Let me walk through how I arrived at it.

My cautious estimate will include the adjustment to account for the slight change in the registration total and it will continue to assume the lower Kerry % among the subset that reflects the total that voted in 2004, while assuming 75% instead of 65% among new registrants. My optimistic estimate, meanwhile, will change dramatically as I bump Obama’s share up to 65% and McCain’s down to 33% reflecting the roughly 5-6% shift in this race.

Note that I haven’t changed my turnout prediction from 87% in either of my models. That’s because I think that 87% is pretty much the reasonable peak of turnout. Even as excitement grows for Obama, my pedestrian guess is that those very very weak Republican voters will drop off and not show up just as the voters on the exact other end of the spectrum are bucked up.

New Cautious Estimate
245,671 – Kerry vote
+ 90,543 – 75% of new voters
336,214 Obama votes

211,980 – Bush vote
+ 30,181 – 25% of new voters
242,161 McCain votes

New Optimistic Estimate
65% x 578,375 = 375,944 Obama votes
33% x 578,375 = 190,864 McCain votes

New Cautious Margin: 94,053
New Optimistic Margin: 185,080
Average: 139,566.5

Obama’s Fairfax County Margin

September 17, 2008

My very cautious estimate of Obama’s margin of victory in Fairfax County is 67,538. My optimistic estimate is that the margin will be 117,884. I detail how I came to each of those numbers below. But I guess I’ll split the baby. I predict that Barack Obama wins Fairfax County by a margin of 92,711 votes.

There are 657,393 registered voters in Fairfax County which I am going to round off to 660,000 in order to account for the yield from the frenzied last days of voter registration leading up to the October 6th deadline. And assuming a turnout of 87% (high but not totally unrealistic given that in 1992 arguably the last truly competitive presidential campaign in Virginia the state saw an 84.5% turnout) – 574,200 people will vote in Fairfax County.

Cautious Estimate: Even without getting into the tricky analysis of the recent demographic shifts which favor the Democrats I have a very conservative projection of Obama’s Fairfax County margin of victory. I arrived at the projection by merely allocating the portion of the above projected vote total that voted in 2004 exactly as it was allocated in 2004 – Kerry voters to Obama and Bush voters to McCain ( an incredibly conservative estimate from Obama’s perspective given the aforementioned demographic shifts and dysfunctional state of the local Republican party) and then allocating the additional vote by 65% to Obama and 35% to McCain to vaguely reflect the demographic identity of the newest registrants (again conservative from Obama’s standpoint given the thorough superiority of Obama’s ground game in Fairfax County).

245,671 – Kerry vote
+ 73,334 – 65% of new voters
319,005 Obama votes

211,980 – Bush vote
+ 39,487 – 35% of new voters
251,467 McCain votes

Optimistic Estimate: This analysis is much more simplistic. Instead of trying to disaggregate newer and older voters from limited data I have just used the past two statewide election results – 2006 U.S. Senate and 2005 Governor – and averaged the Republican and Democratic percentile performance in Fairfax County among those two years and applied that to my turnout projections.

59.525% x 574,200 = 341,793 Obama votes

38.995% x 574,200 = 223,909 McCain votes

McCain Has No Message

September 9, 2008
I wrote this as a comment on NLS- it ended up being so long I figured I’d throw it up on my blog too.
McCain has no message. Once the bounce wears off and the focus is recentered, people will have a clear choice. This is the first time in 12 years that we have had the message and the GOP looks hapless shifting around every other week.

In 2000, Bush won on the message – “peace & prosperity minus the blue dress.”  And Gore shifted every other week between wedding himself to Clinton or not. The whole campaign became about whether he was running on Clinton’s legacy or running from his moral misdeeds. Finally in the last couple weeks he settled down and moved away from all the non-incumbent “People vs. the Powerful” messaging and used the message – “Keep the prosperity going” closing the gap, even winning the popular vote. If he had run on that message the whole way he probably would have won Florida.

In 2004, Bush won on the message – “he will keep you safe/you can’t trust Kerry.” Kerry meanwhile tried to run a whole campaign of biography. His message was almost non-existent. The convention was essentially one big masterbatory waste of time. One speaker after another talking about John Kerry the hero.

Now in 2008- Barack Obama is going to win on the message – “change.”  Initially, John McCain had it in his mind to run a race similar to the one Bush won with in 2004. He spent the last several years transitioning to a fierce supporter of the double down Bush Iraq strategy and shifted his positions to the right to win the GOP primary. His message- “I will keep you safe/You can’t trust Obama.” But in the last couple weeks, for whatever reason, he decided that strategy wouldn’t win. My guess is that it was a combination of factors. First, his polling must have showed him he couldn’t consolidate his base. Second, the GOP has prob. gone back to the “scare” tactic well one too many times. It likely wasn’t peeling off enough independents. However, it’s questionable whether he allowed enough time to see if the message would work.

Instead, McCain made the foolish gamble of trying to pull a combination of Gore and Kerry’s strategy. He is running essentially as an incumbent (which I’m sure my Republican friends will try to argue away) because he is from that party, he has the same positions on the issues, and he has been in Washington much much longer. Not to mention the quotes from the primary praising and tying himself to Bush and the many photos of them together. Yet, as an incumbent he is running on his version of Gore’s “People vs. the Powerful” – “reform/change/etc.”

And he’s pulling from Kerry by wrapping this so much in biography. The convention reminded me a lot of Kerry’s from ’04- complete with a charismatic speech from a newcomer which doesn’t fundamentally further the presidential candidates’ chances. This aspect reveals perhaps the biggest flaw in the McCain strategy. McCain’s campaign is all about him. Of course you have to weave in your personal story to your message as a sort of proof or credibility. But McCain is resting it all on bio. So much that he has eschewed talking about issues to a large extent.

Elections are not about the candidates, they’re about the voters. I have a feeling they’re going to teach John McCain that lesson on November 4th.

Putative Registries & Adoption

September 2, 2008

Finally back from a long hiatus.

NLS has posted a glib and typically outrageous note indicting Tim Kaine for a policy for which NLS clearly has no understanding.  What’s worse, his follows on an equally uninformed column by the generally well-respected Marc Fisher. So I felt compelled to explain how important Virginia’s “Putative Father Registry” is and how non-controversial it would be to anyone who truly understood it.

To begin, a Putative Father Registry simply is a voluntary registry to a confidential database where an unmarried man may claim to be the father of a child. Nobody is required to register. The registry simply prevents the child from being adopted without a proper hearing on the issue of paternity. However, the registry is not the only means by which the man may claim paternity and prevent an adoption. The normal mechanisms for establishing paternity are still available. The only thing the registry does is put the burden on a father to make their own effort to assert their rights. Most of us can agree that we shouldn’t expect anything less from someone who expects to rear a child.

The central focus of our law in Virginia, as well as pretty much every jurisdiction of the United States, as it concerns children – whether the issue is adoption, foster parents, custody, visitation, or any other issue – is the Best Interests of the Child. Our society has made the clear choice that, ultimately, the desires or interests of parents are inferior to the interest of an innocent, defenseless child. And understanding this core standard is key to understanding the value and necessity of the Putative Father Registry.

Prior to the enactment of such registries (in Virginia and the majority of the remaining jurisdictions in the United States) adoption authorities were burdened by the task of tracking down putative fathers who might be long gone with little or no information with which to track them down. Turning our Department of Social Services and courts into investigative units was not only absurd due to its impracticality, it was an unfair punishment to the children.

This system essentially left these children caught in a bureaucratic limbo every time a father was not present to give his blessing for an adoption. And since single mothers are often the parents in the position of placing a child for adoption, this reality has ensnared and tripped up many children from achieving their right to live in a stable, loving home.

Finally, the previous system diverted resources that could have been trained on finding great homes for children. And the indirect consequence of a resource-starved adoption processing system is that delays discouraged potential parents from undergoing what looks like an overwhelming ordeal adding stress to what is already an emotional rollercoaster for parents pursuing an adoption.

I hope this diatribe is helpful information to anybody confused by the irresponsible ranting of NLS and Mr. Fisher.

Obama all the way

February 4, 2008

Obviously my bully prediction on Edwards performance in Iowa didn’t play out. But it’s nice that we have had two great change agents in the Democratic field this year. I am fully supporting Barack Obama for president and it’s great knowing that Virginia’s primary will really matter. My predictions for Super Tuesday in vague order of performance:

Obama – Illinois, Georgia, Connecticut, Alabama, Delaware, Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas
Clinton – New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, Alaska, Tennessee, New Mexico, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Arkansas, California

Despite the fact I am predicting that Clinton will win more states, I still think Obama wins the delegate majority. Read this interesting article for a description of the technical rules which make predictions for Super Tuesday pretty tough.

Why John Edwards Will Win Iowa

December 21, 2007

UPDATE: Check out this MSNBC poll. Pay particular attention to the question about first-time caucus-goers and second choice.

Disclaimer: As many know, I did work for John Edwards in Iowa in 2004 and am still supporting him.

There are four basic dynamics which the media has chosen to ignore which should have a serious impact on the Iowa caucus results. This analysis doesn’t account for a couple of major factors which could also be critical. Momentum is always important. Who will have the momentum after Christmas? And caucus experience matters. Whose staff will maximize their advantage with knowledge of caucus math and guts to persuade shaky supporters of other candidates in the middle of the caucus rather than just hiding out in their candidate’s corner? But I’m predicting that these four dynamics will be decisive:

1) Who Is Voting?
The magic question in the Iowa caucus is who will vote? For various reasons polling the caucus is incredibly difficult. While people may self-identify as voters, it’s difficult to cost-effectively ascertain whether each respondent actually understands what is required to vote in a caucus (e.g. publicly declaring your vote to all your neighbors, waiting around for as much as a few hours, missing most of the Orange Bowl, etc.). Therefore, the only hints we have about the reliability of candidates’ support are the internals of polls. While polls do vary, Edwards generally leads among experienced caucus-goers and among age groups more likely to vote – namely those over the age of 35. Hillary does lead among the all-important 65+, but retirees aren’t as important in the caucus as non-retired voters over 50 since absentee voting isn’t an option.

2) Who Else Are They Voting For?
In most elections that question doesn’t even make sense. But in Iowa it’s arguably more important than the first question. Across the state, votes for also-rans like Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Kucinich would probably collectively garner anywhere from 20-40 points in a traditional primary. But in most precincts those candidates won’t have enough support to be “viable”. Under caucus rules, if a candidate does not have at least 15% in a precinct those voters either have to convince others to support their candidate, support another candidate themselves, or go home. In most cases people won’t just go home. They are already there and want their vote to be counted. For example, in 2004 I persuaded about 10 Kucinich voters to support Edwards when they were just 2 votes short of viability.

This is why the fact that Edwards consistently leads as the “second choice” of Democratic caucus voters could be huge. This gap will only widen due to the 3rd dynamic.

3) Who Are They Not Voting For?
A related issue to second choice is last choice. While this isn’t exactly a polled question, it’s a real phenomenon. In 2004 Dean and Gephardt became a lot of caucus-goers “last choice” because of the nasty negative turn their campaigns took in the final 2 weeks. This voter anger directly benefited Kerry and Edwards. While it’s hard to see from outside the state, it seems that Obama and Clinton are repeating that same old mistake.

4) Where Are They Voting?
Again, this might not matter in a traditional primary but it matters a lot in the Iowa caucus. Without getting into the hairy details, having exceptional support in a few areas is not nearly as valuable as being “viable” everywhere. If a candidate is viable in all precincts that are awarded more than 1 delegate and in the majority in all the small (mostly rural) precincts that are awarded only 1 delegate then they would have the overwhelming majority (approx. 2/3) of the vote. John Edwards’ campaign, according to all the anecdotal evidence and the limited polling broken down by region, benefits from a much more even distribution of support across the state.

My Predictions

November 6, 2007

Chap!, John Miller, Ralph Northam, George Barker, Janet Oleszek, and Al Pollard win. And maybe Mike Breiner and Karen Schultz too.

Eric Ferguson, Margi Vanderhye, Paul Nichols, Jay Donahue, and Adam Tomer win. And maybe Rex Simmons, Chris Brown, Bobby Mathieson and Jeannette Rishell too.

UPDATE: We got the Senate! So I may have been a little over-exuberant but Chap, Miller, Northam, and Barker were the winners. Janet appears to be a painful hair short. As for the House, it’s a mixed bag- we got the Vanderhye and Nichols seats as well as the Mathieson seat and the totally unexpected Bouchard victory. But on the other hand we lost Ferguson! Who would have thought that?

My Senate Ratings

October 10, 2007

About a month out, here’s where I think things stand in the State Senate. (incumbents underlined, projected winners in bold)

Likely Turnover
34th District – Chap Petersen OVER Jeannemarie Devolites Davis
1st District – John Miller OVER Tricia Stall

Leans Turnover
39th District – George Barker OVER Jay O’Brien
6th District – Ralph Northam OVER Nick Rerras
37th District – Janet Oleszek OVER Ken Cuccinelli

29th District – Chuck Colgan vs. Bob Fitzsimmonds
27th District – Jill Holtzman Vogel vs. Karen Schultz

Leans Retention
28th District – Richard Stuart OVER Al Pollard
22nd District – Ralph Smith OVER Mike Breiner

Likely Retention
13th District – Fred Quayle OVER Steve Heretick
33rd District – Mark Herring OVER Patricia Phillips
20th District – Roscoe Reynolds OVER Jeff Evans
17th District – Edd Houck OVER Chris Yakabouski

Keep in mind that these are the 13 even remotely competitive races. If Breiner and Heretick win, the Republican party will really line up the circular firing squad. You may want to get your popcorn ready.

Cuccinelli Really Steps In It

October 10, 2007

Up until a few weeks ago if asked I would have said that Ken Cuccinelli had run the strongest campaign among the endangered Republican incumbents this year. With the exception of one serious misstep Ken had controlled the terms of the debate in his re-elect. By separating Janet from her affiliation with the successful Fairfax County Public School system he had been making the best effort at caricaturing her into an impossible choice. But now he has not only reminded voters of her role with the schools but has insisted on a terrible and stupid strategy of attacking the schools themselves. And he’s fallen right into Janet’s outstanding narrative.

37th Senate District – Leans Turnover

Ella Mercer Murray

September 20, 2007

At 11:37 yesterday morning in Inova Alexandria Hospital, Ella Mercer Murray was born. dscn2836.jpg