Margin of Σrror

Margin of Σrror -

Chris Christie’s broad appeal sets up historic win in New Jersey. And then? | Harry J Enten

A Republican governor who can get re-elected in a blue state is something, but look at his coalition and start thinking about 2016

The fact that no one is talking about Chris Christie’s re-election campaign for New Jersey governor is about the most significant thing you can say about it. Many analysts, including this one, thought that Christie’s post-Sandy approval bump would ebb, so that we might get an at least somewhat competitive race with the Democratic candidate, Barbara Buono.

To put it simply, that hasn’t happened. Christie is ahead in the contest by a little more than 25pt, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average. That’s down from his 40pt lead at the beginning of the year, though it’s actually up slightly from the beginning of the month. Christie’s lead has held because his personality popularity has. He has a 68% favorable rating in the latest Stockton poll.

Christie’s dominating lead has pretty much silenced pundits like me: there just isn’t much to talk about in terms of the gubernatorial election. Christie’s going to win, and he’s going to win big.

Yet, it is worth recognizing how impressive Christie’s win looks like it’s going to be. Christie’s going to be the only Republican governor to win more than 50% of the vote in a state where President Obama won by at least 10pt over Mitt Romney. There’s a pretty good chance that Christie is going to be the only Republican governor east of Ohio and north of North Carolina by the end of next year.

Put another way, Christie is defying long-term trends. It wasn’t too long ago that the way a state went in the presidential election was not indicative of how a state would go in the gubernatorial election. That’s no longer the case. So, the fact that Christie is winning in a blue state now is as much of an anomaly as the Republican George Pataki winning in an equally blue New York state in 2002.

I’d go as far as to say that Christie’s win would be historic, if the 25pt margin holds. It’s the type of victory that people will remember because it’s so out of the normal historical range. How so?

President Obama won New Jersey by an average 13.9pt more than he won nationally over the past two elections. If the state was going to vote purely in line with its presidential vote, you’d expect Christie to lose by 13.9pt in a neutral year. Christie is running 39.2pt ahead of that pace.

I gathered the previous 156 non-recall gubernatorial elections since 2002 to see how this 39.2pt difference compares. Christie’s will be the best showing for a Republican candidate versus the presidential vote in the past five years. Of the prior 156 gubernatorial elections, and the two this year (assuming something crazy doesn’t happen in Virginia), since 2002, Christie’s “over-performance” will rank him seventh among Republican gubernatorial candidates.

The only candidates who beat him over the longer period are Jim Douglas in Vermont (a state that had been historically Republican) thrice, Connecticut’s Jodi Rell in 2006, Linda Lingle (who just lost by 20pt in a Senate race in 2012) in Hawaii, and Nevada’s Kenny Guinn in 2002. One thing all of these states had in common is that they didn’t have many black or Hispanic voters. Blacks and Hispanics tend to be less elastic in their patterns, so having more of them in a state makes a Republican’s job at running up the margin more difficult. At the time each of the six better performances occurred, the states where they happened had fewer blacks and/or Hispanics voting than the nation as a whole. That’s not the case in New Jersey.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Christie is only polling so well because he’s doing so well with blacks and Hispanics. He’s down only 19pt among blacks. He’s even with Hispanics. Of all the exit polls I could find over the past decade, no Republican gubernatorial candidate has scored better than that with blacks, and none outside of Florida has performed that well with Latinos.

Christie has shrunk the Democratic margin among blacks by about 70pt, against Obama’s share, in New Jersey. He’s done almost the same with Latinos, whom Obama carried in New Jersey by about 60pt – more than 15pt greater than he did nationwide. For a party looking to make inroads with minorities, Christie has done it.

Another thing none of these other over-performing Republicans had were presidential ambitions. Christie, of course, clearly does. It makes it more difficult to localize the race when this is the case, though Christie has.

Usually, a state’s voters don’t want their politicians to run for president. More Texans thought George W Bush shouldn’t run than should at this point in the 2000 cycle. More Tennesseans believed Al Gore shouldn’t run than should at this point in the 2004 cycle. More Illinoisans, Bay Staters, and New Yorkers thought Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton respectively shouldn’t run than should at this point in the 2008 cycle.

Christie’s been so successful in his campaign that more New Jersey voters think he should run in 2016 than shouldn’t per a recent Quinnipiac poll. Christie has not only gone into a blue state as a Republican governor and convinced many he should be re-elected, but he’s done it even as they know he may run for president. More than that, they like the idea.

Some, especially on the right of the GOP, may say Christie has sold out conservative principles to get where he is in the campaign. The funny thing is that Republicans in his home state don’t agree. A recent survey had him winning a majority of them in a hypothetical 2016 matchup. It’s the only survey done so far this year in any state where a candidate has won the majority of the vote in a Republican primary.

When you look at the whole picture, you can see what I mean when I say Chris Christie’s re-election prospects are historic. He’s winning by a wider margin than nearly every other Republican gubernatorial candidate before him since 2002, compared to the state’s presidential leaning. He’s done so with a wide coalition and has gotten them to go along with his presidential ambitions.

It makes you think that Christie might win a certain election in 2016, too. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Some Republicans are nuts, but the party leaders are not | Harry J Enten

There are extreme Republicans, but the leadership is not about to allow the party to go the way of the Whigs

News watchers these days have to strain their head not to hear a story about Republicans going off the deep end. Whether it be the asinine attempts to derail Obamacare in Congress, impeachment talks, or harsh voter identification laws passed in North Carolina, some of the more extreme members of the Republican party are front and center.

The question is whether or not these very conservative members are taking control of the Republican party and perhaps throwing it the way of the Whigs. I don’t just mean as talking-heads on Fox News. I mean leaders of the party.

I can think of two ways we can figure this out. First, we can look at who is leading the party in Congress, since they are elected by their fellow congressmen. Second, we can look at who the party is most likely to nominate in 2016.

On the first point, it’s important to remember that most congressmen have little power, even if they scream from the high tops. Loud members of this group include former Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Anthony Weiner. They may have appeared a lot on television, but didn’t hold much sway when it came to legislating. The key is to look at who chairs committees. These are the people who usher legislation through the US government. Those who hold the purse strings. The people who set the agenda. The people who hold sway.

It used to be that seniority was the main determinant of committee chairmanship, but that’s changed over the past 20 years. Other factors such party unity and the ability to fundraise are more important in determining chairmanships, which make it a good measure of where the center of power is. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is actually slightly more toward the middle than the median Republican. Per DW-nominate scores, which is based on roll call voting, even the more conservative Minority Whip John Cornyn is within a standard deviation of his party’s center.

The chairmen of the important committees also tend to be more moderate. Senators Grassley of Iowa, Hatch of Utah, and Shelby of Alabama are all more moderate than the caucus as a whole. In fact, Grassley is the 7th least conservative Republican in the Senate. Only the conservative Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is still more moderate than Marco Rubio, is to the right part of the caucus.

This extends to the House as well. There is no score for Speaker Boehner, but Majority Leader Eric Cantor is more moderate than the potential 2016 presidential nominees per Nate Silver. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is right in the middle of the Republican caucus per DW-nominate scores. The chairmen of the Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Transportation, and Ways and Means are all more moderate than the caucus as a whole. This includes Fred Upton of Energy and Commerce, who is more moderate than 80% of his caucus. Only Pete Sessions of the Rules Committee is more conservative than the caucus of a whole.

Probably more important is who the party’s presidential nominee is. This person projects the image of a party, and if (s)he wins, chooses the national party’s leadership. President Obama is a non-extreme liberal whose multiracial background echoes a party welcoming to moderates and a growing diverse population. The latter is part of the reason there have been calls for a Marco Rubio nomination.

Since the party reforms of the 1970s, a candidate backed by the establishment hasn’t lost the nomination. Even after the anti-establishment Tea Party surge of 2010, a relatively weak Mitt Romney was able to corral the nomination thanks to establishment support.

So who is the Republican establishment apparently supporting now? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. For the time being, the “selection” of Christie suggests a Republican leadership that isn’t about to go off the deep end. It tells the story of a party leadership that wants to win the White House and will do what it thinks is necessary to win.

Christie is not currently loved by the grassroots, though as Nate Cohn points out he can likely overcome the generally inaccurate early primary polling data. On the key issues that are important to the Republican base such as abortion and gay marriage, he’s not “moderate”. Christie is certainly no liberal on taxation issues. That’s likely why the Republican leadership is backing him, when they wouldn’t do the same for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. He’s presentable to the different parts of the Republican base when it comes down to it, even if the numbers don’t say it right now.

Still, Christie is not that conservative on the whole. Yes, Christie is pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and just vetoed gun control legislation. Abortion, however, is something most Americans are split on. Christie also signed a law banning gay conversion therapy, and he signed 10 different gun control laws recently. In other words, Christie is a kind of ideological hodgepodge. This can best be seen by looking at ideological ranking systems. This takes the subjectivity out of trying to parse out where exactly a candidate stands.

As Nate Silver did originally, you can average scores across different systems to get a good idea of where a candidate stands. In the case of Christie, he’d be the most moderate Republican candidate in the past 50 years.

Christie’s scoring on the two rankings we have available place him more toward the center than any other candidate to win a Republican nomination since 1964. Some of you might say that Christie is more conservative than these scores indicate. But it seems to me that for every issue where Christie takes a conservative stand, he takes a moderate stance. So that while he’s conservative on taxes, he’s for campaign finance reform and green energy.

The point is he’s more toward the center than previous nominees. He no doubt will move somewhat towards the right, once he wins a second term in November. Still, even a hard turn right would still leave him as relatively moderate. A Republican leadership that was looking to move more towards the right would not be interested in nominating this man or nominating the committee chairmen they are in congress. This is a party that wants to win. It’s a party leadership that at least right now is following the historical pattern of wanting to nominate a more moderate candidate, after losing the the presidential election in two consecutive cycles.

All of this point to a party that, on an electoral level, is still functioning. These are signs of a party that isn’t going away anytime soon and may win back all elected federal branches by 2016. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Cory Booker is the big winner from Christie’s call on New Jersey elections | Harry J Enten

Chris Christie’s decision to hold separate polls for senator and governor may suit him but won’t please the Republican party

Chris Christie has made his decision: New Jersey will have a special Senate election on 16 October 2013. The selection comes as a surprise given that the smart money was on either November 2013 or November 2014 (given conflicting state statutes). No other election is scheduled for that date, and Christie’s move will cost taxpayers a cool $12m. Additionally, a primary has been scheduled in August. That’s another $12m.

The reason Christie chose these dates is simple enough. He was fearful of having the Senate election on 5 November 2013, when he will be running for re-election as governor. That date could have led to higher turnout – higher, that is, than the usual lower, off-year turnout, which tends to benefit Republican candidates. Christie was also likely fearful of being linked with the national Republican brand in a predominantly Democratic state.

But why not November 2014, in that case? The answer is that Christie didn’t want to push the election to November 2014 because that postponement would have led to a court battle with Democrats, who want the election in 2013. Such a date would have allowed a Republican incumbent, whom Christie will have appointed, to have time to build statewide name-recognition. Now, the seat-filler will not be able to raise his or her name-recognition by a prolonged period in office, so Democrats are unlikely to challenge Christie’s 2013 date.

Put another way, Christie is trying to have it both ways: he doesn’t want an open legal battle with Democrats over the date of the election; at the same time, he doesn’t want another Democrat on the ballot for his election. I’m not sure, though, that this is the wisest move on his part.

Christie said he “doesn’t care” about the cost of a special election. That is not exactly the type of wording fiscally-conscious national Republican primary voters want to hear. It’s also a line likely to be used by Democrats against Christie given that he had previously made a move to ensure that state elections were held on the same today precisely in order to save money.

National Republicans won’t approve the idea of an incumbent Republican senator not having time to build name-recognition either. Democrats, of course, aren’t happy that there won’t be a Senate race to help boost turnout in November, which would help their New Jersey gubernatorial candidate, Barbara Buono. In addition, vulnerable Democratic state legislators may be hurt by depressed turnout because of the prior election a mere month before the state elections in November 2013.

It’s possible therefore that Christie is being too cute by half – storing up problems for himself with a national GOP that already has its doubts about the New Jersey governor’s conservative credentials.

Another question to be answered is whom Christie will now pick to fill the Senate seat before the October election. If he can persuade the relatively well-known former Republican Governor Tom Kean Sr, who had a +37pt net favorable in 2010, to run, then all might be forgiven by national Republicans. Kean would have a real chance of winning the seat and may actually benefit from a compressed election schedule. Aside from Kean Sr, it’s unlikely that other Republican candidates (who may include state Senator Tom Kean Jr, Lt Governor Kim Guadagno, or state Senator Joe Kyrillos) would stand much of a chance.

Any Republican nominee would likely have to face off against Newark’s popular Democratic mayor, Cory Booker. Booker is likely to be the real winner from Christie’s decision. He has the money and name-recognition to win both a primary and general election in a short campaign. There’s no real way that the state Democratic party can choose a different candidate.

Finally, Booker can now dismiss the possibility that a popular Christie on the same ballot might have helped a Republican Senate candidate’s odds. Barring a Kean Sr candidacy, Booker is almost certainly going to be the next senator from New Jersey. Even if Kean Sr was on the ballot, Booker would stand a solid chance in a blue state like New Jersey.

So, the election for New Jersey’s next United States senator is well under way. Chris Christie has eliminated worry about interference from a Senate race appearing on the ballot with him, yet he’s likely to face harsh questions about the cost of running two separate elections from Democrats. National Republicans, also, will be critical of his spending decision and may hold against him the fact that he has deprived a GOP Senate incumbent of a November 2014 election.

Christie is still a heavy favorite for re-election as governor, but expect his enemies to try to use this decision over when to hold the gubernatorial election against him. Cory Booker, meanwhile, gets his primary and is standing pretty. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Lautenberg’s legacy for New Jersey rivals Chris Christie and Cory Booker | Harry J Enten

The death of Senator Frank Lautenberg creates both pitfalls and opportunities for the Republican Christie and Democrat Booker

The death of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg has upended the political landscape in the Garden State. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie now must select someone to fill the vacancy in the upcoming days. New Jersey voters will then vote on a replacement in an election at some point. When that election is could have major political ramifications for well-known political figures Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Why?

For Christie, 2013 was supposed to be the year of his re-election. Christie had benefitted greatly from voters’ positive views of his handling of Hurricane Sandy. No Democratic heavyweights were willing to run against him. Only the politically weak New Jersey state Senator Barbara Buono, who Christie leads by 30+ points, put her hat into the ring. Christie was also going to benefit from the fact that no regularly scheduled federal elections were to take place this year in New Jersey. The off-year electorate is typically older than one would see in a presidential election year and would pad Christie’s margin by about 2-4pt in the event that the polls tightened.

For Booker, the path from mayoralty to United States Senate was fairly clear. He was going to raise a ton of money, beat off any competition in a Democratic primary in which he already led by 40pt, and crush any Republican competition in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican senator in 40 years. It wouldn’t matter that Booker inelegantly pushed Lautenberg out of running for re-election 2014. It wouldn’t matter that he left the Democratic party without a politically strong standard-bearer in 2013 and may have cost his party control of the state legislature. The public loves Cory Booker.

Now, neither Christie nor Booker are in a comfortable position. Christie has to select a replacement. He’ll probably pick a Republican, but what type of Republican? Will he pick an elder statesmen like former Governor Tom Kean who wouldn’t run for re-election? In doing so, he’ll give away any advantage that an incumbent might have and almost certainly needs to win a Senate seat in this very Democratic state. Yet, a more moderate selection won’t help him among the Republican base if he decides to run for president in 2016. Will he make a more polarizing pick like State Senator Tom Kean Jr or Lt Governor Kim Guadagno, who almost certainly would run for re-election? Doing so might alienate Christie from the heavily Democratic electorate in New Jersey.

The greatest question for Christie though is when to hold the election. Without confusing anyone too much detail here, suffice to say that conflicting state statutes mandate that the election needs to be held in November 2013 or November 2014. Which statute is right is likely to be determined in court. Most state Democrats no doubt want November 2013. Such a close election gives little time for any Republican senatorial candidate to build the necessary statewide name recognition to win. Further, if the Democrats somehow lose in 2013, they get another shot in the regularly scheduled 2014 election. More important, though, is the impact an earlier election will have on the gubernatorial race.

A Senate election in 2013 could help to nationalize the gubernatorial election taking place on the same day. Christie leads the gubernatorial race by 30pt because he takes 30% of the Democratic vote and 65% of the independent vote that split evenly between Obama and Romney in 2012. The last thing Christie needs is for these voters to have a reminder on the ballot that he’s a member of the Republican party that is not well liked in New Jersey. In addition, Christie doesn’t want Democratic voters to come out as strongly as they do in a presidential election year atmosphere, as they might if Booker is the Democratic nominee. Christie doesn’t need to take chances given his lead has already been cut from 40+ to 30+ pt; and most agree that it’s likely to be cut further.

Of course, Christie probably doesn’t want to end up with a prolonged court battle over the date of an election. The mere action of going to court to fight with Democrats over the date of the election is going to put Christie in the press for being a Republican. He might think that his 30+ pt lead is wide enough, and the only thing that could screw it up is a publicized battle with state Democrats. Not choosing November 2014, however, will definitely perturb national Republicans who know that a 2014 election is the only chance they have to win the seat.

If the picture is murky for Christie, it’s pretty clear for Booker. He also wants 2014. How could it be that Christie and Booker want the same thing? If the election is held in 2013, the state Democratic party picks the Democratic candidate. If the election is held in 2014, the Democratic nominee will be selected in a primary process. While there is the smart thought that the state Democratic party wouldn’t dare pass over the popular Booker, who polls significantly better in a primary and general election than other Democrats, it’s difficult to predict the actions of a few people.

State Democrats may dislike Booker’s prior actions so much that they are willing to pass him over. They could make the following argument: Booker may lead his opponents by 40pt in a primary match-up, yet he’s only at 50% in a hypothetical primary contest. You could say that half of New Jersey Democrats prefer someone else. They also know that any Democrat selected is likely to win in 2013, and a close election may, if anything, boost turnout that could help Buono in the gubernatorial race.

The fact is that Booker is sporting a +70 favorable rating among New Jersey Democrats. Yes, a 2014 election could give a Republican incumbent a slightly greater chance at defeating Booker, but that’s unlikely to make much of a difference given Booker is ahead by 20+ pt against all potential Republican candidates.

Whether New Jersey voters select a United States senator in November 2013 or 2014 is unknown. My guess is 2014 will be the date because that’s the date Christie’s probably going to select. The court is more likely to confirm than overturn the decision of the head of the state, especially given that a recent clarifier by that State Office of Legislative Services says 2014 is the proper date. That’s good news for Booker and Christie, who will say that 2014 is what state law tells him to do. I’d still bet on both to win in 2013, if the Senate election is this year.

Frank Lautenberg’s death, however, has definitely added a wrinkle to both Chris Christie and Cory Booker’s political planning. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Why Chris Christie’s weight loss could actually work against him | Harry Enten

Polls have shown surprisingly that when it comes to male candidates, voters look more favorably on overweight aspirants

Sometimes, Washington DC seems like Hollywood for nerds. No clearer was that the case than the media’s reaction to the news that New Jersey governor Chris Christie submitted himself to lapband weight-loss surgery. Never mind that Christie said he was simply losing weight to be healthy for the sake of his family. The first question the press, as they would in Hollywood, asked is how being slimmer would impact Christie’s future career. So do Christie’s chance of becoming president improve because he is carrying fewer pounds?

Some of us may be too young to remember that the press wondered if Christie was “too fat” to be governor from New Jersey. In fact, it was the subject of a Newsweek article and Democrat Jon Corzine’s attacks in 2009. Back then, 78% of voters said that Christie’s weight made no difference in their vote. You might think that the voters were lying until you realize that Christie became arguably the most conservative Republican governor from New Jersey in modern history. He did so while winning a larger percentage of the vote than any Republican candidate for governor in New Jersey in 24 years.

Recent polling backs up the older polling. A Quinnipiac poll taken in March 2013 of New Jersey voters found that only 21% of voters had any reservations about a generic candidate’s weight. A September 2012 Quinnpiac poll showed that 84% of New Jersey voters said it wouldn’t make a difference in their vote if a generic candidate was overweight. In New York, the percentage rose to 88%, so it’s not just a home state bias. Even after an asthma attack in 2011, only 18% of New Jersey voters said they were worried about Christie’s weight. Keep in mind that all of this New Jersey polling took place when Christie had a far lower approval rating than he sports now.

There are also signs that attacks on Christie’s weight backfire. I’m not just talking about the fact that Jon Corzine lost in 2009. I’m talking about an October 2011 Quinnipiac poll that showed that 71% of New Jersey voters said that jokes about Christie’s weight were in bad taste. This polling was consistent across political parties. Moreover, 79% of women, who Republicans have a problem with, thought that the jokes were in bad taste. Most were voters willing to go farther than just “bad taste”: 72% agreed with Christie that political commentators who brought up his weight were “ignorant”.

Some might say that the weight issue would be different in other states. I don’t buy it. New Jersey and New York are two of the slimmest states in the nation with obesity rates of less than 25%. If weight were an issue, we’d expect to be in these states. I would think it would be far less of an issue in the battleground states of the midwest given that 25% to, in some cases, over 30% of the population is overweight in these states. In a Republican primary, Christie’s weight shouldn’t deter him from winning southern states given that the majority have obesity rates over 30%.

Indeed, some of the livelier southern politicians of our day were at least at some point overweight while in office. Anyone remember Bill Clinton’s weight problem? His McDonald’s excursions didn’t stop him from becoming president. Haley Barbour was a well-liked two-term Republican governor of Mississippi. Mike Huckabee did slim down for health reasons before his presidential run, yet was popular as an overweight governor. Newt Gingrich’s health would likely benefit from losing a few pounds, but I think most would agree he didn’t lose in 2012 because of weight.

Examples and polling aside, you might think that these politicians’ weight did hurt them. That is, they would have been even more popular if they were slimmer. Given the polling, you’d have to believe the voters were unwilling to admit that weight kept them from pulling the lever for these overweight candidates.

The good news is that we actually have scientific research that seeks to control for this potential social desirability bias. A 2010 University of Missouri-Kansas City study looked at how people reacted to pictures of a potential candidate of normal weight. This control group was compared to other respondents who were shown pictures of the same candidate, except the candidate’s picture was morphed to be obese. Everything else about the candidate including political affiliation, views, and background remained the same.

And did the candidate’s weight make a difference? If the candidate was female, extra weight was a small negative. That concurs with a survey this year by Lake Research that found the mere mention of a woman candidate’s physical appearance hurt them. This was especially the case when the appearance coverage was unflattering.

For men, however, the 2010 University of Missouri study found that being obese was not a negative. It was actually a large positive! Respondents were over 20 points more likely to have a warmer feeling towards the same male candidate if he were obese than if were skinny. The obese candidate was 10% better liked than if he were skinny. The obese candidate was also thought to be more intelligent than the skinny one.

These positives for males make sense if you think about it. Society trains us to think this way. To bring it back to Hollywood, look at the Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy. Murphy’s character Professor Klump was obese. He was, however, smart as a whip and very likable. Klump’s skinny equivalent Buddy Love was not nearly as smart and was a jerk. At the end of both Nutty Professor 1 and 2, the audience is rooting for Klump to beat his arch nemesis, and he does. Meanwhile, Klump doesn’t get together with an overweight woman. Instead, he ends up with characters played by the very attractive Jada Pinkett Smith in the first movie and Janet Jackson in the second one. These characters happen to be very kind and intelligent too.

When you take all the evidence into account, Chris Christie doesn’t need to lose weight to become president. Voters say they don’t care about weight, and their actions back them up. The research says that Christie’s electoral prospects might be better off keeping on the pounds. For now, can’t we just be happy that Christie wants to be a healthier individual? © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GOP governors are reading the polls on whether to support Medicaid expansion | Harry J Enten

GOP governors are divided over what to do about Medicaid expansion, but their actions thus far line up with poll data

Republican governors across the US are split on whether to accept additional federal funding to expand Medicaid. Some such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Governor Rick Scott have said yes in order to get more federal dollars, while Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have declined. Why? From a public opinion standpoint, Republicans face a catch-22: the majority of Americans want the expansion, but the Republican base doesn’t.

Per a January Kaiser poll, 52% of Americans believe the Medicaid expansion should go into effect vs. the 42% who think Medicaid should be kept the way it is. That’s far more popular than the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at large, which 52% of Americans want to try to change or stop to ensure it has “less impact on taxpayers, employers, and health care providers”.

When we expand it to the state level, the polling picture looks similar. The percentage of adults who believe Medicaid should be expanded after being told the state would have to pay 10% of the cost after three years is 54% in Arkansas, 62% in Florida, 51% in Kansas, and 55% in Texas. Perhaps most impressive is Iowa where more adults believe that the state should opt-in on the expansion even after being presented with Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s arguments against it.

The issue for Republican governors is that the Republican base just doesn’t agree. In the national Kaiser poll, only 16% of Republicans believe expanding Medicaid should be a “top” priority, and a mere 23% of Republicans believe that Medicaid expansion should be done at all.

The same holds on the state level. In Florida support from Republicans is 25 points lower than it is for the public at large. In the blue state of New Jersey, only two-fifth’s of Republicans like Medicaid expansion. In the swing state of Iowa, nearly four-fifth’s of GOP voters agree with Governor Branstad’s arguments against the exchange.

The result of these competing factions is a bunch of Republican governors don’t know what to do. Republicans know that the majority of the public thinks they are too extreme and unwilling to compromise. The last thing they need to do for their re-election efforts is to oppose a program that seems to be popular with the residents of their states. That’s especially the case governors with low approval ratings in purple states like Rick Scott.

At the same time, Republican governors know that conservative voters have shown very little restraint in taking out Republicans who don’t toe the party line. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist hugged President Obama, which was the picture in the opening ad for the insurgent run for senate of Marco Rubio. Long-time Indiana Senator Dick Lugar was apparently too nice to Obama, so he received a successful primary challenge in 2012.

The same pattern seems to be occurring to Chris Christie in New Jersey and Rick Scott in Florida. Conservatives refused to invite Christie to CPAC, despite the fact that he is arguably the most conservative elected New Jersey governor in an incalculable number of years. A CPAC insider said Christie’s future role in the national Republican Party is “limited”. Christie’s exclusion is no doubt because of a number of factors such as gun control and his post-Sandy Obama love, but few would doubt that the Medicaid expansion played a roll.

Meanwhile members of Governor Scott’s own cabinet have called his move on medicaid “surrender”. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi opposed the move and has been polled as a potential primary challenge to Scott. That’s right, there’s some chatter that Rick Scott ,who is one of the most conservative governors in the nation, might face a primary challenge.

To add to the intra-party squabbles, the normally Republican and high donation giver Hospital Associations are fearful of losing money if the Medicaid expansion is not taken by governors. They have lobbied hard. No doubt Rick Scott, a former hospital executive, was at least partially swayed by them. Most other conservative groups are, like most Republicans, against the Medicaid growth.

So what is a Republican governor to do from a re-election angle? If you’re in a deep red state, oppose the expansion. It’s doubtful that a deep red state will support a Democratic governor over this one issue. You’ll only increase the chance of a primary challenge. If you’re in a purple or blue one and potentially vulnerable for re-election, support it. You’ll get money help from the Hospital Associations to help in the primary and general elections. You also don’t want to be seen in the same lens of a national party that is already facing quite low approval ratings. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

What early polling can – and can’t – tell us about 2013′s key US elections | Harry J Enten

In races like the New York mayoral election, most candidates’ lack of name recognition makes early polling highly unreliable

Polls taken early in the election season are a most interesting phenomenon. The media loves them, while some think they are a waste of time.

The record shows that early surveys can tell us a lot about where a race will end up in the case of midterm House and even Senate elections. But in the 2013 elections, early polling is, at best, a very rough guide, and at worst, can tell us absolutely nothing.

Let’s take a look at the history of polls from early to late in the campaign for past contests in the races being held this year. The Massachusetts special election upcoming later this year may or may not feature Republican Scott Brown. The polls at this point have him ahead of almost all his opponents, except for, perhaps, Governor Deval Patrick.

The issue here is that none of his opponents is really well-known, which is why I wouldn’t dismiss any of them at this point. The plurality of voters have not formed an opinion on possible Democratic candidates like Mike Capuano, Ed Markey, or Stephen Lynch. The same holds true for possible Republican candidate Bill Weld.

As for the history, at this point in the 2010 Massachusetts special Senate election, Scott Brown was down 30pt to eventual Democratic nominee Martha Coakley. In fact, he was still down by 30pt with only two months to go. Yet he went on to win by 5pt.

Some might say 2010 was an exception, but just look at another special election, a year later, for West Virginia governor. The only pre-primary poll in that race had eventual Democratic candidate Earl Ray Tomblin ahead of Republican candidate Bill Maloney by 33pt. Tomblin would only retain the governor’s mansion for the Democrats by a little less than 3pt.

The bottom line is special elections can turn on a dime, especially when name recognition is low.

Another place where name recognition may be affecting early polling is in New Jersey. I already discussed how current polls that show Chris Christie well ahead of his Democratic opponents are likely inflated by a post-Sandy bounce. One would expect that his approval rating will eventually fall back to a still impressive mid 50s level.

That’s exactly where polls put another incumbent Republican Christine Whitman in 1997. Whitman led then relatively unknown state senator Jim McGreevy by about 15pt in early data. Whitman’s approval rating and polling lead held into the final month; but then, McGreevy rapidly closed the gap and only lost by 1pt.

Pre-Sandy polls put Christie ahead of declared Democrat Barbara Buono by a similar 16pt. Christie actually led by only 6pt over possible Democratic candidate Richard Codey. Christie is, no doubt, the favorite, but New Jersey is a Democratic state – and the last Republican with a good lead nearly lost.

Right next door to New Jersey is the New York City mayoral race. Early surveys have the probable Republican candidates down by 50pt to a generic Democrat in this Democratic bastion. Maybe that will hold, but I’m betting it won’t.

You don’t really have to look far to understand that polling in New York City mayoral elections is about as reliable as the subway after midnight. They were well off in 2009 and that was not an anomaly.

Polls had Democrat David Dinkins ahead of Republican Rudy Giuliani by 20pt two months out in 1989, and by 14pt in the closing weeks. Dinkins won by 2pt.

Republican Mike Bloomberg overcame an early 40pt deficit because of the 9/11 attacks to beat Democrat Mark Green in 2001. Democrat Freddy Ferrer was ahead of Bloomberg by 8pt in March of 2005. By November of that year, surveys had Bloomberg leading by 30-40py. Bloomberg took the race by 19pt.

And, of course, we don’t even know who the Democratic nominee will be for mayor this year.

Finally, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, early gubernatorial surveys have Democrat Terry McAuliffe barely ahead of Republican Ken Cuccinelli. As in Massachusetts, however, over 45% of voters have no opinion of either candidate. There is also talk that Republican Lt Governor Bill Bolling may run as an independent, which could really throw this race for a loop.

Early surveys in the last two Virginia gubernatorial elections were off the eventual margin by 10-15pt. In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine trailed Republican Jerry Kilgore by 5-10pt through the summer of 2005. It was only in the final months that he pulled ahead and won by 6pt. In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell was ahead of Democrat Creigh Deeds by mid single digits through the early fall. He ended up winning by 17pt.

Thus, in the four marquee races for 2013, early polls should be taken with a big grain of salt. In all four cases, we have examples in the past 15 years of early polls being anything from 15pt to upwards of 30pt off.

That’s not to say the early polls won’t be right this time. It just means that if they are, there will definitely be some luck involved. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds