Monday, November 05, 2012

2012 election guide


Not a great deal of suspense over who will control the House at the end of election night, with most analysts pegging the likely result as something between a +2 R to +5 D. Here's a list of what the Washington Post considers to be the 60 most important House races, while Talking Points Memo offers a list of 10 races that should indicate which party is having a good night. 

Some particular races/storylines of note:
  • Kentucky's 4th congressional district features the candidacy of Republican Thomas Massie against Democrat Bill Adkins. Massie has been described by Reason magazine as Kentucky's next Rand Paul. He has a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, started a company with his wife when he was only 22 and is both a fiscal hawk and civil libertarian. His opponent is a lawyer. This district is considered to lean Republican, was made even more Republican following recent redistricting, and Massie is a heavy favorite to win. A lengthy profile of him can be found here.
  • Chris Stewart, favored to win in Utah's 2nd congressional district, has a degree in economics from Utah State. Can never have too many econ-savvy members of Congress.
  • Michigan's 3rd congressional district features the re-election bid of Rep. Justin Amash, one of the most libertarian members of Congress who lists economists F.A. Hayek and Frédéric Bastiat as his biggest heroes. According to Amash is considered a slight favorite.
  • Mia Love, running in Utah's 4th congressional district, is said to quote Bastiat from memory. Haitian-American, she would be the first black female Republican in Congress. The district is the most Democrat-friendly as Utah goes, but is still rated leans Republican and she claimed earlier today that recent polling gives her a decent lead. The Washington Post profiled Love here.
  • Will Massachusetts be the first state to elect an openly gay Republican congressman to reveal his sexual orientation before he was elected? There's a good chance. Also, be sure to check out this very unique campaign ad of his.

Like the House, not a great deal of suspense here as Democrats are widely expected to maintain control of the chamber, with the likely result somewhere in the range of +2 R to +2 D. A few notes:
  • Ted Cruz appears set to become the newest senator from Texas. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cruz -- a Tea Party Republican -- is that his father fought on the side of Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. Cruz will be the Senate's third Cuban-American member (along with Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, assuming the latter's re-election) -- not bad for a demographic that only comprises 0.6 percent of the population.
  • Cruz, while backed by the Club for Growth, is not the biggest friend of liberty in the running -- that honor goes to Jeff Flake in Arizona who has a 100% lifetime rating from the Club for Growth. While he faces a close race against Richard Carmona, Carmona now has a negative favorability rating and Flake is the favorite to win.
  • If Flake wins, he will be a useful counter-balance to the likely election of lefty darling Elizabeth Warren, favored to win against incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts. How much of an uphill battle does Brown face? According to Charlie Cook, Brown has to win the vote of every Republican, every independent, and then get another 200,000 votes from Democrats. In a presidential election cycle, that's a lot of split ticket voting.
  • Another race worth keeping an eye on is Sherrod Brown vs. Josh Mandel in Ohio. Brown is one of the most economically illiterate members of the US Senate, serving as perhaps the body's most ardent opponent of free trade and prone to spouting nonsense such as “Everybody knows that government creates jobs.” (At best, government simply transfers jobs, since every dollar spent by government is a dollar not spent by the private sector funding something else). A Mandel victory, however, would be a pretty big upset. One factor working against Mandel is the fact that, in the words of Charlie Cook, he looks "really, really, really, really young. And you can probably add another really."

One race worth keeping an eye on is the gubernatorial race in New Hampshire, where the Democratic incumbent is retiring. If Republican Ovide Lamontagne wins, New Hampshire will be one of the most Republican, and arguably libertarian, states in the country. Given its overwhelmingly Republican legislature, the state could be an interesting experiment for right-wing policy absent the veto threat from a Democratic governor. As it stands, however, recent polling suggests that Lamontagne is a slight underdog.

More broadly, meanwhile, The New York Times says that Republicans are expected to have a good night in the governor races.

Ballot measures

Here's a guide to various referendum measures that would expand federalism, including initiatives in Colorado and Washington that would legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana. Initiative 1240 in Washington, meanwhile, would bring charter schools to a state that currently has zero. (Update: another charter schools measure in on the ballot in Georgia)

Another one worth monitoring is proposal two in Michigan, which would make collective bargaining a constitutional right, thus guaranteeing Michigan will never become a right to work state. Opponents seem to have the inside edge, but we'll see. California, a state increasingly devoted to proving correct right-wing critiques of leftist economic policy, features proposition 30, a measure supported by Gov. Jerry Brown which would raise the sales and income taxes.

The Cato Institute's Dan Mitchell highlights some others worth paying attention to.


Buzzfeed has a really simply guide to assessing who is winning while The New York Times has a pretty nice tool laying out all the various paths to 270 electoral college votes -- definitely worth checking out. Here are the final state polls from RealClearPolitics.

The first results, of course, will come from the hamlet of Dixville Notch, NH. In 2004 the town voted for Bush by a margin of 19-7 and for Obama in 2008 by 15-6. (Update: 2012 results in: 5-5 tie. Either the town had a number of people die or move, or that's just miserable turnout)

Here's a round-up of predictions from various pundits, which will be useful Wednesday morning for checking to see who called it accurately and who made a mess of things:
  • The Eurasia Group, a political risk/analysis firm, gives Obama 2:1 odds to win.
  • Nate Silver says Obama is better than an 80 percent favorite to win, predicting 314-224 in the electoral college, while Intrade on election eve favors Obama roughly 67-33.
  • The Princeton Election Consortium calls it for Obama 319-219.
  • The Washington Post's "Fix" blog sees Obama winning 277-261 and the popular vote 50.1-48.5.
  • A model developed by two University of Colorado political science professors that has successfully predicted every presidential victor since 1980 says Romney will win 330-208.
  • University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato predicts Obama 290-248.
  • Paul Krugman harrumphs that the Romney campaign is "visibly flailing," it will "take a miracle" for the Romney/Ryan ticket to win and "reporting that suggests that this is a too-close-to-call race" is "just lazy, and a disservice to readers." Well!
  • Karl Rove predicts 51-48 for Romney in the popular vote and an electoral college victory of at least 279. For those interested in his track record, in 2008 Rove predicted an Obama victory by a margin of 338-200 (actual margin: 365-173). When one considers that the discrepancy is entirely accounted for by the fact that Rove had Indiana, North Carolina and Nebraska's second congressional district going to McCain (Obama actually won both all three by 1 percent or less), that's actually not a bad performance.
  • Jay Cost, election analyst for The Weekly Standard also says that Romney is the favorite, while Michael Barone of The Washington Examiner thinks Romney takes the electoral college 315-223. George Will does him one better, calling it for Romney 321-217 with Romney even winning Minnesota. 
  • One of the more intriguing predictions comes from Josh Jordan, aka NumbersMuncher. A small-business market-research consultant who examines poll numbers in his spare time, Jordan has insisted for many weeks that the polls underestimate Romney's strength. Jordan predicts Romney will win the popular vote 50.5-48.5 and the Electoral College 295-243. Will be interesting to see whether Jordan reveals himself to be a keen poll observer worth checking in with in the future or just some guy with a twitter account. 
  • Not all on the political right agree with Rove, Cost & Co. Michael Barone's colleague Tim Carney predicts Obama will prevail 292-246 while Radney Balko thinks Obama will win 290-248 with the Republican stance on immigration costing Romney dearly (he does, however, think Romney will narrowly win the popular vote). Tino Sanandaji, a big fan of Romney, thinks he will lose and has already performed a post-mortem
Concluding Thoughts

For all the attention this election is receiving the stakes are not particularly high. Indeed, this is probably the least consequential election since Clinton vs. Dole in 1996. 2000 and 2004 were huge, as were the 2006 mid-terms (enabling Obama's agenda). This election, not so much. Romney is no radical, and won't have the votes in Congress to push a meaningful agenda even if he wanted to. Obama, meanwhile, has no obvious agenda for his second term, will face a GOP House for at least the next two years and there is an excellent chance Democrats will lose the Senate in 2014. In other words, don't fret too much regardless of what happens. 

My call: Romney 271-267. Romney takes NH,VA, FL, WI, and CO while losing OH, IA, PA, MI and NV. But that's a guess, not a prediction.

Update: Rethought this right after posting. Giving WI and NH to Obama, making it 281-257 for the incumbent. Final call!

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