30 September 2010

Rothenberg: No more time to cut through the clutter

Stu Rothenberg:

You'd never know it from the avalanche of TV ads, direct-mail pieces and phone calls that voters will receive in October, but most campaigns have only another week or two to change the likely outcome of their contests.

Sure, the midterm elections are still five weeks away, but the combination of early voting in many states and the difficulty of cutting through the coming clutter means that the best opportunity for campaigns to change voter attitudes is quickly coming to an end.

Every election cycle is different. Society changes, all the external factors change. More government influence in society and greater competition for Congress in an all-or-nothing binary system of control ===> more spending in elections ===> diminishing returns for every additional marginal dollar spent on ads at the end of an election cycle.

It's not a groundbreaking thought, but I don't see most people talking about it. Especially the pundits, who frequently think that American elections are exactly the same as when they were a young beat reporter in the 70s or 80s. Heh.

Also in Rothenberg's column:

In Texas' 17th district, Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards bought almost 7,000 gross ratings points between Aug. 27 and Sept. 27 on Waco broadcast TV, pummeling his Republican opponent, Bill Flores.

Unfortunately for Edwards, Flores bought about 4,000 points, and the NRCC chipped in about another 1,500 points. American Future Fund checked in with about another 1,000 points during the same period (None of these figures include the cable TV purchased by the candidates or the political committees). Voters, in short, have already heard many attacks.

If the polls suggesting that Flores is leading by 15 points are correct, Edwards is done. I'd be surprised if he managed a Houdini-like escape. Even against Wohlgemuth, he was never in such bad shape.

Posted by Evan @ 09/30/10 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


"big gay breakfasts", money, Kay 2012 and more

1. "Bill White's big gay breakfast in Austin," was the headline in the Dallas Voice. The title amused me.

2. Well that's just shocking:

Perry, the longest serving governor in state history, has appointed nearly 4,000 people to nearly 600 boards, commissions, task forces, groups and departments. Of those, one in five returned the favor with campaign cash.

Wait, wait, out of all the people Perry has appointed (he's made about 6000 appointments in total, some of them reappointments) only 1 in 5 have donated money to him? Generally speaking, folks who get statewide appointments are successful folks, or people with expertise in a specific area. In other words, the sort of civic-minded folks likely to have money who commonly donate to political campaigns. And only 1 in 5 of them have donated money to Perry? Even after receiving a statewide appointment, only 20% have given money? Sheesh, there are direct mail donor lists where you could get a 10% response rate on a single (albeit amazing) piece of direct mail...

I'm curious, but I bet that both Richards and W had higher than a 20% giving rate from appointees.

3. Olympia Snowe is worried about her right flank up in Maine. Rick vs Kay has found two examples of Kay Bailey Hutchison apparently not being worried in the slightest bit...so perhaps she isn't running for re-election?

4. I just saw this over the AP wire:

Democratic challenger Bill White said Thursday that he wants to know whether campaign contributions influenced any of Perry's appointment decisions. He says it cannot be a coincidence that so many Perry donors are appointees.

Does Bill White really want to be talking about cash for appointments right now? Bill White ran for mayor on the slogan "Let's Get Houston Moving" or something like that. Transit was his big issue, yet his appointments ruined Houston's METRO. Every day we have news of another Metro problem.

This actually seems to be a recurring problem with the White campaign. It's not enough that a campaign attack is effective...it also has to work in your favor. They don't seem to have thought about attacks cutting both ways. Maybe they believed their own hype?

Posted by Evan @ 09/30/10 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


29 September 2010

Lloyd Doggett and Nancy Pelosi for governor of Texas

Nancy Pelosi still wants to be governor of Texas, according to the AP:

Texas is suing the federal government over $830 million in aid for schools that has been tied up in political wrangling.

A state-specific provision in the federal law requires Gov. Rick Perry to promise Washington that Texas will maintain certain state education spending levels through 2013.

As you may recall, Lloyd Doggett got Nancy Pelosi to write a provision only for Texas that requires levels of spending in order to receive federal education aid.

If I were the Bill Flores campaign, I'd be hammering on this.

Posted by Evan @ 09/29/10 12:07 PM | Comments (1)

 
 


Trial lawyer tactics, $38M, startups, debates, and politipinion

1. Juan Lozano, AP:

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White said Monday that since Gov. Rick Perry refuses to debate him, he'll spend 25 days between now and the Nov. 2 election asking questions he would have posed to his opponent at such a forum.

At a campaign stop in Houston, the city's former mayor posed his first query: whether Perry would accept responsibility for job losses, having 1 million unemployed Texans and having unemployment rates higher than three neighboring states. The 25 days of questions will correspond to Perry's 25-year career as an elected official.

Bill White is using a classic trial lawyer technique...why? Does he really want to remind voters that he used to be a trial lawyer? I have to guess that a trial lawyer friend suggested the idea, and sometimes you just can't escape your background, which is why the candidate thought it was a good idea. I bet the Bill White staffers are shaking their heads.

2. As of now, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, this year's Texas gubernatorial election has cost $38 million spent on airing 56,032 television ads. $3.5 million of that has been Back to Basics, which is a pretty amazing number when you consider how much of the TV spending was from Rick v. Kay.

3. San Antonio Biz Journal:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to visit San Antonio on Tuesday to discuss the state’s participation in an InCube Labs biosciences business incubator that California entrepreneur Mir Imran plans to develop in the Alamo City, say sources familiar with the project in Austin and San Antonio.

Those sources say Perry will announce the state's investment of Texas Emerging Technology Fund money in the San Antonio InCube project.

Nice. Entrepreneurialism is good.

4. White to debate 3rd party candidates:

Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party nominee Deb Shafto on Tuesday accepted an invitation from the Houston Chronicle, the state's other large newspapers and Austin television station KLRU to participate in an Oct. 19 debate at the TV station's studios.

Democrat Bill White last month accepted the invitation, which was initially extended just to Perry, the Republican incumbent, and White. KLRU will broadcast the one-hour debate in Austin and make it available to stations around the state. Newspapers also will stream it live on their website.

5. Politipinion strikes again! They say that White did in fact pay payroll taxes, so they call Perry's statement false. This is just silly. Clayton Williams was relentlessly pilloried in 1990 for the same thing that Bill White did in 1995: taking tax credits on losses to cover income, and thus pay no tax. Only Politipinion would rate that claim "false."

Posted by Evan @ 09/29/10 05:55 AM | Comments (1)

 
 


28 September 2010

Will Bill White's real approval ratings please stand up (please stand up)?

Burka writes:

The number that jumps out at me is White's favorable/unfavorable. Yesterday, Rasmussen had this number as 42% favorable, 47% unfavorable. Obviously, this would be a disaster for White. Blum & Weprin have White’s favorable/unfavorable number(s) as 45% favorable, 24% unfavorable. This is much more in line with previous polls. At 45/24, White is a viable candidate. At 42/47, he is not. But there is a third dimension to White’s favorable/unfavorable score: 26% of respondents have not heard enough about White to have an opinion.

First of all, when I look at the Blum and Weprin numbers

How do you reconcile the large difference between the Blum & Weprin poll (White approval 45-24) with the upside-down Rasmussen approval numbers (42-47)? Easy. You assume they are both basically true.

B&W asked*, "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bill White or haven't you heard enough about him to have an opinion?"

Rasmussen asks, "I'm going to read you a short list of people in the News. For each, please let me know if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable impression." Rasmussen does not give a "not sure" option, though if people volunteer one then it is scored as such. In Rasmussen's last poll, Bill White scored 21% very favorable, 21% somewhat favorable, 28% somewhat unfavorable, and 19% very unfavorable, with 11% volunteering an unsure option.

So let's go over the reasons why the numbers are different:

1. Options given. As I mentioned, B&W gives just 3 options, and one is "not sure." Ramussen gives 4 options, and doesn't give a not sure. This is the key difference between the two polls, and is way more significant that the more maudlin factors that I will mention later. Given the option to approve of Bill White, 45 did in the Blum&Weprin poll whereas 42% did in the Rasmussen poll. 24% disapproved of White in the B&W poll contrasted to 19% disapproving strongly in the Rasmussen poll. So, we have 45-24 in B&W and 42-19 in Rasmussen.

The key difference is that Rasmussen gave a "somewhat disapprove" option. You know who picked this option? Republican voters who don't pay that much attention to politics in September. They don't really have an opinion of Bill White yet other than that he's a Democrat. The B&W question makes these voters take a firm stand against White, and if they aren't paying close attention, then they are likely to just pick "not sure." But if they are given an option, like in Rasmussen's poll, then they pick "somewhat disapprove."

2. Question ordering. In the B&W poll, they ask the "ballot test" question first, but don't ask about Bill White until the 4th question. In Rasmussen, they ask the "ballot test" question third, and immediately follow it by asking about Bill White. That's a key difference in how much the subconscious emotional reaction dies down. Rasmussen asks about job approval right after respondents hear that Bill White is a Democrat, so non-political junkie Republicans choose "somewhat disapprove."

In my opinion, it is a slightly more accurate reflection of the approval numbers when the question is immediately after the ballot test. In the ballot box, partisan emotions are as high as they ever are, so a question that replicates that is more likely to be accurate. In the B&W poll, respondents had the 2nd and 3rd question to cool down before deciding on whether not knowing much about Bill White (except that he is a Democrat) puts them in the "somewhat disapproving" or "not sure" camp.

3. Wording. This is way less important than the other two, but the Rasmussen wording of the ballot test question puts a bit more emphasis on the partisanship of the candidates, where the BW poll mentions the parties a bit more off-handedly.

Just to be clear: I'm not criticizing either the B&W poll or the Rasmussen poll. They tell us different things and give us data points to draw our own conclusions.

My conclusions would be that a good number of the people who picked "not sure" in the B&W poll are Republicans or Republican-leaners. Perry's campaign hasn't yet convinced them that Bill White deserves a firm "disapprove." That requires too much commitment when they don't know much about White yet (eg, 11% of the Rasmussen volunteered that they were unsure about White even though they weren't given the option in the script). However, when pushed, a large majority of those give a "somewhat disapprove" based largely on White's party.

White does have an opening still, if he can find a message that really resonates. He's not very well-known, which is why 41% of the B&W sample didn't give an opinion. Perry is under 50% in a red state in a very Republican year, which is good for White. On the other hand, that's also the problem: White is running in an anti-Obama election in a red state. When people know that Bill White is a Democrat, then the numbers skew towards 42-47.

* I'm going to assume that this DMN page is a close approximation of the script and order.

Posted by Evan @ 09/28/10 10:40 PM | Comments (1)

 
 


Rick Perry for Gubernatorial Majority Leader, part 2

I was joking when I titled a post early this month, "Rick Perry for Gubernatorial Majority Leader," but apparently I was closer to the truth than I thought.

[Perry's] work to develop an anti-Washington coalition of governors matches efforts of some other Republican presidential hopefuls trying to sway the national agenda and wrest the White House from Democratic President Barack Obama.

Perry told The News he's interested in organizing his counterparts in other states, "and hopefully there will be a substantial number of governors elected who share our fiscal conservative philosophy and our great belief in the 10th Amendment that the states need to compete against each other and not be dictated by one-size-fits-all, Washington, D.C., policy."

"At the end of the day, I think it's going to take those governors from all across the country, standing together, pushing back on Washington, D.C.," Perry said. "That's what I'm really interested in helping organize and being a part of."

quoted from the DMN, though I remain unclear as to whether Perry has proposed an organization or if he was simply riffing on philosophical changes in gubernatorial mansions across the nations. I've certainly missed it if details have been mentioned.

Posted by Evan @ 09/28/10 07:57 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Trial Lawyer millions funding Bill White attack ads?

Paul Burka writes about how the Democratic Governors Association is spending $700k per week on ads on top of a $2 million contribution to Bill White. His headline is "DGA targets Perry."

Dan Balz's story today says that White and Perry are running "about even" in the Houston area but that Perry holds a "solid lead" in the Dallas area. Dallas County has turned Democratic for the past four years, but the suburban collar counties–Collin, Denton, Rockwall, Kaufman, Ellis–are a Democratic graveyard. [Evan note: link to WaPo added.]

I don't get what the DGA sees in this race, except that things may be so bad for the Democrats in governor's races that they are looking for longshots to come in. But all of the indicators in this race are bad

The DGA probably doesn't see anything in this race. The DGA is a 527, headed by Tom Daschle's kid and unregulated by the FEC, that can accept unlimited contributions and pass them through to the campaign.

So is the DGA targeting Perry? Maybe...but likely not because there are much smarter places for the DGA to spend its money (FL, CA, OH, MA, PA, IL, MD, etc off the top of my head). It is much more likely that an uber-rich political donor is using the DGA to temporarily conceal the source of the money. That way, the media won't report who is funding the attacks, just that the DGA is spending money. Not only does it more or less conceal the source of the funds, but it leads political reporters who aren't paying attention (what's up WaPo?) to write about how the DGA is targeting the campaign, thus creating the illusion that DGA thinks the race is winnable.

Who would have a motive to try to conceal their identity for at least a few weeks? Well, one person has spent quite alot of money on attacking Rick Perry in order to help Bill White: Steve Mostyn. Donors generally don't want to become the issue in the campaign, especially when their contributions get into the multi-million range. I'm just speculating, but if I were betting, I'd bet that Steve Mostyn made a sizable contribution to the Democratic Governors Association. If you go check the data on the biggest contributors to the DGA up until the beginning of September, you will find that the Mostyn Law Firm is one of the largest DGA contributors (the first 5 are all unions). I could certainly be wrong, but it seems likely to be a good guess.

By the way, I seem to recall Texas Dem partybloggers complaining for the last 4 years when Bob Perry donated $1M to the RGA, yet they seem to be strangely silent this time around. I look forward to seeing if they are equally outraged this time.

Posted by Evan @ 09/28/10 06:32 PM | Comments (1)

 
 


Cornyn and Sessions to stay as campaign chairs?

CQ floats the possibility that Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Sessions will stay for another two year cycle as heads of the NRSC and NRCC, respectively.

For Republicans, there appears to be a strong possibility that the current chairmen of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee will stay in those roles for another two years.

The NRSC job is obviously Cornyn's job if he wants it. No GOP senators would even run against him if the GOP picks up nearly as many seats as they probably will

But it's less clear whether there will be turnover at the top of the NRCC. It all depends on whether Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) wants to move up the leadership ladder after Election Day.

Rumors have already cropped up in GOP circles that Sessions might have ambitions to become Majority Whip if, as many suspect, Republicans take the majority in November. It's a leadership move that might be viewed as well-deserved if Sessions does engineer a 39-seat-plus gain for the GOP this fall. Sessions is also the second Republican in line on the House Rules Committee and could have his eye on leading that panel.

A House Majority Whip from Texas....sounds familiar.

Campaign committee chairs are judged by how many seats they win or lose in a particular cycle, but most of it is out of their control. The job is mostly fundraising and candidate recruitment. In this cycle, those things have both been pretty easy on the Republican side. No encouragement was needed in lots of candidate recruitment once Obama started spending trillions and trying to pass ObamaCare. Plus, the striking weakness of Michael Steele as RNC Chair has shifted alot of would-be RNC donations to the NRCC/NRSC/RGA. Especially to the RGA, as Haley Barbour has a certain heft. [Sorry, couldn't help myself.]

With all that said, Sessions and Cornyn have both done pretty decent jobs. It certainly doesn't hurt Texas if they stay around for another cycle -- and 2012 will feature a much more favorable terrain of Senate seats for Republicans than 2010 (which is mostly in blue states). Cornyn might want to be careful and start paying attention to his constituent service though.

Posted by Evan @ 09/28/10 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


27 September 2010

Texas +4

It is not news that Texas is likely to pick up +4 congressional seats in the next reapportionment. That's a massive gain at a time when Florida's gain of 2 seats is the only gain above 1 seat. New York and Ohio are scheduled to lose 2 seats.

How many people in the Lege are thinking about going to Washington?

Posted by Evan @ 09/27/10 04:33 PM | Comments (1)

 
 


24 September 2010

Rasmussen September poll: Perry 48, White 42

Rasmussen 9/22, 500 LVs, +/- 4.5%

Perry 48
White 42
Other 3
Not Sure 6

Positive movement for White.

Posted by Evan @ 09/24/10 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


16 September 2010

Burning money

I quote from CQ, but really it's just because I wanted to comment on Cornyn burning 42k in NRSC money in Delaware:

Republican National Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) weighed in Wednesday, announcing that his campaign committee would give O'Donnell $42,000, the maximum allowable direct donation. But Cornyn did not commit to any independent expenditures on her behalf, which will likely be sorely needed in the expensive Philadelphia media market.

$42k is something of a drop in the bucket, but there are alot of marginal Senate races this year where a compelling last minute independent ad could actually make a difference. There is zero chance that O'Donnell wins in Delaware, for both ideological and character flaw reasons. Considering that O'Donnell pays herself a salary out of campaign contributions, one has to wonder what Cornyn was thinking.

Perhaps all politics is local, tea party-style?

Posted by Evan @ 09/16/10 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

 
 


CQ: "Is this an anti-incumbent year? Not so far"

CQ looks at the 2010 cycle and states the obvious: it's not anti-incumbency which is fueling election results.

Countless stories and hours of cable television have been filled with analysis describing this year's elections as tantamount to an anti-incumbent wave.

But as the primaries come to a close, it's clear that instead of throwing the bums out, voters have let the vast majority of incumbents move on to the general election.

"Most of the anger is driven at Democrats because they're in power," he added. "Some is driven at Republicans when voters conclude that a particular candidate is too close to Democrats."

The Texas media largely still is getting this wrong.

Posted by Evan @ 09/16/10 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


538: Bill White has 14% chance to win, down from 17%

Nate Silver now has Bill White with just a 14% chance to win in November, down from 17% the last time he pressed 'enter' on his computer's Monte Carlo simulations.

What is interesting is that most of the polling inputs to Silver's model have changed. The last time Silver published his models' findings, he had White with a 17% chance to win. However, most of that was based off of Rasmussen polls. This time, Silver is largely using the TT internet poll, PPP, and Zogby, with just a soupcon of Rasmussen thrown in for flavoring.

If you think Rasmussen is a better 2010 pollster than all of the above (as I do), then Silver's model would probably push White down into the single digits.

Posted by Evan @ 09/16/10 06:49 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


13 September 2010

A fairly strange brag

A few hours after I posted about the TT's internet poll today, they tweeted:

New UT/TT poll: Libertarians polling 5% to 8% in marquee statewide races.

Put me down for the under, please. Libertarians aren't going to average 6.5% on election day. I'd be surprised if any made it to 5%.

If you know anything about online polls then you know that libertarians are precisely the type of voters likely to be oversampled by an internet poll. Historically, it's been true. Further it makes sense when you think about what demographic groups lare ikely to be self-selecting into online polls. So, making a point about how Libertarians are running hot in your internet poll compared to normal polls is...strange.

Posted by Evan @ 09/13/10 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Internet polls

If you're interested in internet polls, the new TT/UT internet poll is out today.

Related: My criticism of internet polling.

Posted by Evan @ 09/13/10 05:09 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


12 September 2010

Sunday's thought

From the Economist:

[Mexico's National Action Party] even boasts an international reach, winning 57% of the expatriate vote in 2006.

57% > 35.9% of the vote that Calderon won nationwide. Of course, only about 50k Mexicans were eligible, and only 32k voted, so we should be careful when extrapolating. Still, it's worth noting, considering that most of those expats were probably in the US.

Posted by Evan @ 09/12/10 05:38 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


10 September 2010

Construing things after their own fashion

Burka writes:

I have always believed that Perry is running for national office. Why else would he run for a third term? More land deals? More budget cuts? Pick A&M's next football coach? Prepare for a fourth term in 2014? Been there, done that. He has done everything he can do here. The book is perfectly timed, right at the moment that the focus will shift from 2010 to 2012.

Even if I were to stipulate to all Burka's points, wouldn't they all point towards the idea that he's not running for president in '12? Why would a wannabe president get involved in A&M fights that can only make enemies, not friends?

As for the book release timing, wouldn't the publisher pick a time that maximizes sales?

Posted by Evan @ 09/10/10 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


09 September 2010

A TV rec

I'm trying to post something once a day, and I don't have time for anything substantive today.

So instead I'll recommend a TV series: Underbelly. It's an Australian mafia drama that follows the gangland wars of Melbourne from 95-2005 or so. Obviously you could make some comparisons to the Sopranos, but I think they were trying to tell the story of what happened more than they were trying to develop characters and make art.

Still, for something interesting, and for awesome accents, recommended.

Posted by Evan @ 09/09/10 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


08 September 2010

PPP's new ballot test

PPP, 9/2-9/6
538 likely voters, +/- 4.2%
Perry 48
White 42

PPP's last poll in June had the race tied at 42-42 while other pollsters showed a substantial spread. So a +6 Perry lead in PPP is much more favorable for Perry than a +6 would be in Rasmussen. This might be because PPP tends to show favorable results for Democratic candidates so far this cycle. PPP is a Dem polling shop, but certainly a reputable pollster (similar to HRC, which is a GOP shop).

PPP had Perry's job approval upside down at 39/50, while they had White at 44/29.

PPP also had David Dewhurst beating Linda Chavez-Thompson 54-34 in the Lt Gov race.

Posted by Evan @ 09/08/10 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Exclusive numbers from the Hill Research Consultants poll

I asked Hill Research Consultants about who their sample was for the Texas Watch poll everyone is talking about. It appeared that they had used a voter list, but in the crosstabs respondents were described as "likely voters;" however I hadn't seen any voter screen in the questionnaire.

David Benzion from HRC got back to me and verified that they were using a voter list from the past three elections. He also provided some new numbers.

Among 2006 voters (n=395, MOE +/-4.93%)
Perry: 44%
White: 43%
Undecided: 11%

Also, using Hill's proprietary most likely voter model (n=441, MOE +/- 4.67%)
Perry: 45%
White: 43%
Undecided: 11%

I'll pass these along without comment as more data points. My comments haven't changed much from yesterday's post.

Posted by Evan @ 09/08/10 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Reading the polling tea leaves

Hill Research Consultants, commissioned by Texas Watch.
600 respondents, 8/25-8/29
Perry 42
White 41
Unsure 14

Poll "intentionally allowed respondents to express uncertainty." It also followed a question about current residence and a right direction/wrong track question with the ballot test question. That gets people thinking about their current circumstances and probably using the partisan brain less than it would be at the ballot box. It also finds party ID at only +4 Republicans, which seems a bit low for Texas in 2010. Moreover, it had Perry winning independents at +4. It's pretty hard to see how Bill White wins if Perry is winning independents.

As Kevin Whited said, if Hill were really trying to do a predictive snapshot of the race, you would think that "he would have designed a much different poll."

Zogby, commissioned by Dem moneyman Bernard Rapoport (h/t to Cory Crow and Chron)
803 LVs, 8/24-8/28
Perry 44.4
White 40.6

As I've said repeatedly on here for the last few years, Zogby is the reputable pollster I trust the least. I don't like mentioning polls I can't see crosstabs on, and I can't find them anywhere, including Zogby's site.

The Back to Basics ad calling Perry a coward for not debating ran on 8/24.

In short: underdog candidates love to see polls released showing the race tightening, and that's no exception here, so that's good for Bill White. But I don't yet see anything that makes me terribly uncomfortable taking the over on +7 Perry.

Posted by Evan @ 09/08/10 05:31 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


07 September 2010

If you missed the article on Bill White's business career by SC Gwynne and Gary Jacobson in the DMN, I suggest you read it. It was a good, solid piece.

Three years into his tenure as CEO, White was starting to make a name for himself, buying and selling companies and reaping large returns – averaging 80 percent per year.

Right on. Betting on energy spikes can be very profitable. Even so, I bet that 80% figure involves undiscounted cashflow multiples or internal rates of return that overstate the effective return.

Interestingly, lawfirm mogul Susman thinks Bill White was forumshopping for a place to run for office:

His former law firm boss Steve Susman says that early in his career, White and his wife bought a house in a distinctly unfashionable area in northwest Houston.

When Susman asked him why, "Bill said he had done his research, and if he was running for office someday, it was a good demographic area for him." This same tendency to calculate and plan years in advance was evident at Wedge, too, when he would travel to Spain during summers for immersion courses in Spanish – clearly, in retrospect, anticipating a political career.

Asi se explica el acento? Quizas que haya un toque madrileno. A mi me cae raro, pero quien soy yo para juzgar un acento extrano?

Posted by Evan @ 09/07/10 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Bill White's tax returns

Wayne Slater blog post:

Rick Perry's campaign has asked why Democratic challenger Bill White had no taxable income in 1995, his last year as deputy energy secretary in the Clinton administration. White has not released his income tax returns for his years at the Energy Department. But his campaign has told the Dallas Morning News that while White had taxes withheld from his $133,000 salary in 1995, the amount was offset by losses starting an energy business.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner says he wants to see the returns -- and until White releases them, Perry will refuse to debate his Democratic opponent. White has released his tax returns for his six years as mayor of Houston. The campaign has also provided The News with a spreadsheet of details about his taxes during his years as deputy energy secretary. Miner says that's not good enough: "The word of Bill White's spokesperson is not sufficient when it comes to the contents of Bill White's hidden tax returns.

Maybe I'm seeing this wrong, but doesn't Bill White undermine his own case for not releasing his tax returns when he releases the topline figure? This means he has the tax returns, he knows exactly where they are, he's even gone back and released the topline numbers of his taxes...but he hasn't actually released the details? That's strange. If there's nothing there, wouldn't it take 30 seconds extra work to click "attach" and then send them to the press?

Truthfully, I didn't expect that Perry's campaign would get anything out of the initial tax records request. I figured they were just seeing if White would make a rookie mistake and not release his tax returns so that they could make an issue out of it. White did screw it up for a couple months, but once he released them it became clear that Perry's team had done their research and had an idea of what the tax returns would show (BTEC).

Posted by Evan @ 09/07/10 06:11 PM | Comments (3)

 
 


Cleaning out, post Labor Day edition

Today is the first day after labor day, and thus the traditional campaigning period has begun. It also means the Silly Season is well upon us.

So let me clear out tabs on my browser:

1. Wayne Slater leads with:

With the elections two months away, incumbents across the country are scrambling to survive an anti-establishment, pro-outsider tide of voter discontent.
In so far as Democrats (and Republican appropriators) are the incumbents and the establishment, this is true. I seem to hear alot more about angry voters in 2010 than I did in 2008 or 2006, although people are swinging more along ideological grounds in 2010 than in 2008 or 06.

2. Obama's recently departed budget director comes out hesitantly in favor of extending all the Bush tax cuts for two years.

3. Peggy Fikac makes fun of new state GOP chair Steve Munisteri:

State GOP leaders said they made history by bringing conservative Hispanic leaders together last week, but one who attended the meeting dismissed the gathering as more hat than cattle.

"That meeting was designed to be a meeting so they could say they met with Hispanic leaders. I did not see a plan of action," said Fermín Ortiz, president of the Llano County Republican Club, who emphasized he wasn't speaking on behalf of the group. "I'm not the only person that left that meeting thinking, 'What didn't we do today?'."

State GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri - who highlighted the participation of leaders from seven other groups - said Ortiz is wrong. He said Ortiz asked to attend, rather than being on the original invitation list, adding, "I don't know him from Adam." Maybe that's a problem.

Is Fikac really suggesting that the chair of the state party must know everyone, even if they are from a county of under 20k people? Especially when, as Fikac admits, Mr. Ortiz "said he's twice worked to try to elect Democratic candidates."

4. Rick Casey can get really outraged at the big donations to Republicans, yet sound very zen about equally large or larger donations to Democrats. Hold on, was it Labor Day weekend? Check.

5. Ratcliffe's analysis lede: The Texas general election opens this Labor Day looking like the Year of the Angry Voter.

A year of the Angry Voter would be characterized by incumbents of both parties falling. Have many Republican statewide incumbents are in danger of falling? How about in the legislature? Alot more Democrats are likely to fall, meaning this probably has more to do with a shift in partisan identification and motivation than it does about anger.

6. The Fix has a post on the 8 most important non-federal races this cycle for redistricting purposes. Of the 8, 6 are gubernatorial races, and Republicans will probably pick up 5 or 6 of those.

Posted by Evan @ 09/07/10 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Edwards losing to Flores

Stu Rothenberg catches the Chet Edwards campaign fibbing:

Rep. Chet Edwards, for example, hasn't answered GOP polling showing he trails challenger Bill Flores (R) badly. While the Texas Democrat told me earlier this cycle that he never releases his polling, his campaign did release a Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal survey done Oct. 9-10, 2006, that showed him far ahead of then-challenger Van Taylor (R).
That poll showed a significantly wider lead than what happened on election day.

Plenty of campaign staffs do this, but it underscores that Edwards is probably losing right now by more than a few points. Can he turn it around?

Posted by Evan @ 09/07/10 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


06 September 2010

Burka gets 538's prediction...less than right

I just posted on some problems with 538's prediction of Perry +7. It wasn't really that newsworthy when you look at the inputs.

It looks like Paul Burka didn't quite understand the methodology:

Silver analyzed every governor's race in Saturday's New York Times, projecting the likely outcome. In the Texas governor's race, the prediction is Perry 52, White 45. This margin is slightly lower than the results of recent Rasmussen polls, which are the most frequent source of information about the race. Rasmussen has had Perry up by 8 and 9 points in his last two polls.

This is why Fivethirtyeight is forecasting that the race will tighten.

Fivethirtyeight isn't really predicting that the race will tighten. Silver is saying that the race is currently at +7 right now because he doesn't like Rasmussen's results.

By the way, one other thing worth mentioning that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: the main reason Silver gives White a 17% chance of winning is precisely because his model recognizes that there is a greater margin of error because there aren't many polls. If more polls (like the WRS) poll show a similar outcome, White's chances of winning would be reduced substantially.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/10 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


On 538's +7 Perry victory prediction

One of the more annoying things to have happened in the past few years is the fealty shown by journalists to Nate Silver's models. Ooh! Look! Numbers! More than beginner stats! Since most political journalists don't know what a t-statistic is, they simply repeat whatever Silver writes without question. Because it's just so...quantitative. Numbers don't lie, right?

Silver is a pretty good modelmaker who works hard and deserves the success he has had. But a model is only as good as the assumptions that form it and the data that go into it. In some races this year, there's reason to think that his model is pretty good. In the 2010 Perry v White race, there's not much reason to put much confidence in 538's model.

Data that goes into his model
538 is dependent on public polls. Who has polled the Perry v White race publically? Silver doesn't -- and won't, based on his criteria -- include the recent Wilson Research Strategies poll in his rankings, so he's entirely going off of the last couple Rasmussen polls, a PPP poll from mid-June, and a mid-May YouGov internet poll of registered voters. See a problem here?

Of course, Silver doesn't like Rasmussen polls. He uses two separate adjustments to discount Rasmussen polls in his model: one is his pollster ratings (where his assumptions make Rasmussen look slightly less accurate than it really is though Rasmussen still gets a pretty good score) and the other is a special 2010 "house effects" adjustment. What does the latter mean? It means that Silver thinks that Rasmussen is wrong on his turnout model, essentially. Silver is essentially substituting his own judgment of Texas turnout for Rasmussen's judgment. Silver could be correct, but would you rather take an established, prolific pollster with a very good record or a guy who's just started doing political models in the last couple years?

Assumptions that form the model
Silver used polling data since 1998 to make his model. That's a pretty limited sample size in terms of number of elections. While it does include some wave elections, it doesn't include a GOP wave. So he is essentially using data from a different type of election in order to form assumptions. Will pollsters get a GOP wave as accurate as a Dem wave?

Another potential out-of-sample problem for predicting Perry v White is that Perry has already served 2.5 terms. He is running for his 3.5 term. It's not an open-seat election, and it's not your standard re-election.

We're still a long way to go from election day, so lots of things could still change. Probably $20M more in attack ads will hit the Texas airwaves over the next few months. Rick Perry is a very known quantity to Texas voters; Bill White is not. That means that there is much more variability in whether people like Bill White on election day, but there's probably some negative skew and fat tails because of blowup risk (scandal, political ad that defines one of the candidates) that are much more likely to happen to a first-time candidate than an entrenched incumbent. Plus he's a fairly mainstream Democrat running in Republican Texas during one of the most Republican years. Of course, White does have the advantage that anyone undecided right now is undecided despite the fact that they have a relatively firm opinion of Rick Perry.

In short, Silver's prediction of Perry v White is basically just Silver averaging Rasmussen's polls and then sticking a finger on the scales because he doesn't like Rasmussen.

So, Perry +7? I'll take the over. The Texas gubernatorial race is one of the places where Silver's statistical model is on its shakiest theoretical ground.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/10 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


It's official: Silly Season has begun

The Tea Party protests Cornyn's Dallas office:

About a dozen tea party activists rallied at Sen. John Cornyn's district office in Dallas on Thursday to protest the National Republican Senatorial Committee's involvement in several primary contests.

The protesters met briefly with Cornyn's staff but were told their question would have to be answered by representatives of the campaign committee, which Cornyn leads, or Cornyn's political staff. The senator was not in that office.

Try to keep your eyes on the target, don't you think? Cornyn has done a decent job as NRSC chair, and even though I recently had a pretty horrible constituent service experience with his staff (distracted by the NRSC?), the Tea Party protesting Cornyn has to mark the official beginning of Silly Season.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/10 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


Helter-skelter strategy

RG Ratcliffe recounts the facts:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White recently launched a new television commercial designed to portray Republican incumbent Rick Perry as an Austin insider more interested in taking care of himself and his friends than the people of Texas. The ad focused on a Thursday fundraiser in Austin that was hosted by 29 lobbyists.

"You want to know who pulls the strings in Rick Perry's Texas," says White, casually dressed in a blue shirt that matches his eyes. White speaks directly to the camera. "There're 30 hosts; 29 of the 30 are registered lobbyists. Many used to work on Perry’s staff."

The Capitol Inside newsletter noted that many of the same lobbyists attended a White fundraiser in Austin in 2004 shortly after he was elected Houston mayor and that Washington, D.C., lobbyists hosted a fundraiser for White in February.

Generally in any sort of communications, it helps to have the facts on your side.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/10 06:48 AM | Comments (0)

 
 


05 September 2010

Rick Perry for Gubernatorial Majority Leader.

Politico sees candidates following Rick Perry's lead nationwide:

They're all Rick Perrys now.

A year and a half after the governor of Texas energized his reelection campaign by casting himself as an antagonist to President Barack Obama, Republican gubernatorial candidates across the country are following his example.

Left unsaid is that at no moment has Obama ever been a positive factor in Texas, so it wasn't as gutsy as it might have been in say...Connecticut.*

On the other hand, folks like Bill White and Chet Edwards were all aboard the Obama bandwagon in 08 and early 09 when Obama was a neutral factor, so it wasn't as obvious a political strategy as it seems now.

Also, put me down as unconvinced that all of Perry's anti-Obama agitation was strategery, as Will Farrell would say. Quite a bit of it was probably just his honest reaction, which is probably one reason why he's managed to keep winning statewide elections in Texas. If there were gubernatorial leadership elections, Perry would be looking good.

* Come to think of it, I wonder if Obama has fallen harder in Conn than in other states. Given the high-end financial industry concentration in the state, I'd assume so.

Posted by Evan @ 09/05/10 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


Anita Perry is on message

The HouChron did email interviews of the first lady of Texas and the prospective first lady.

Q: Is campaigning a test of even a good marriage? How and why?

A: Rick works a ton - whether he's home reading briefings or traveling. Yes, the schedules can be grueling, but we talk a lot and try to work schedules so that we're home almost every night - even if it's late. We always have stories to share from the trail, or we talk about our fantastic children and daughter-in-law. And then there is our dog Lucy, who loves us no matter what!

She mentioned it later in the interviews as well, whereas Mrs. White's responses were a bit more...terse. A little bit of a missed opportunity but campaigning is hard for rookies.

Posted by Evan @ 09/05/10 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


02 September 2010

Perry +12 in WRS poll

8/29-8/31, 1001 likely voters
Wilson Research Strategies for GOPAC TX

Perry 50
White 38
Undecided 11
Other 1

Perry Fav/Unfav
50/40

Memo here.

Posted by Evan @ 09/02/10 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

 
 


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