Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pinch Hitting for Pedro Borbon

From the Surprisingly Clement Abandoned Abattoir of S. MacCune
Quinto, Aragon, Spain


I have been asked to pull together a Guest Commentary.  The usual wordsmith and general factotum of this blog is “too busy” to post.  Something about client obligations and pre-Holiday deliverables that need to be finalized.  He is probably trying to set up a Nina Turner 2020 Exploratory Committee. 

So let’s get on with it.

I have been observing Maryland politics for a long time, usually from a great distance.  Oh sure, I may have done some unspecified work for Tommy D in Baltimore way back in the late ‘60s, but who can remember those days?  Apparently Nancy since she still doesn’t return my calls.  Anyway, this was before the great Mayor Coleman A. Young, may he rest in peace, retained my services; but we can talk about that era later.

Maryland politics, right.  So this Shane Robinson fella, who I hear is a sincere, decent politico, switched his party affiliation to the Greens following the November election.  I wonder if he would have done so had he not finished fourth in the Primary, and thus out of the running for the General Election.  Now, I have nothing personal against the schismatic ideologues in the Green Party.  Having myself dabbled in third party politics, you have to respect the dedication to issue purity and its frequent companion: complete electoral irrelevance.  And the pay, for campaign work, can be dodgy.  Of course, back when campaign finance laws were a bit looser, you would hear stories in other states about conservative money coming in to fund Left third-party petition signature gathering efforts and mailers.  The whole idea is that, in marginal districts, helping out a Left third-party by a little bit could make all the difference between a D or an R winning in November. I am not saying this happens today, or that Mr. Robinson or anyone with the Maryland Greens would countenance such actions, but Republicans will work every angle and they exploit opportunities. 

Anyway, you hear a lot of crazy talk around campaigns.  Who knows what the truth is?          

Speaking of, guess who filed for the Green Party presidential nomination?  Maryland’s own Ian Schlakman.  Fresh off a 0.5% showing in the gubernatorial election, he decided the time is right to take Schlak-mentum to the national level.  I hear his biggest opponent for the nomination at the moment is a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based fire hydrant. So best of luck, Ian.*

*Not really.  No Green presidential candidate deserves a vote in the General Election, especially not in competitive and semi-competitive states.  Not with Trump on the ballot. I’d rather vote for that “New Democrat” human ATM McAuliffe.

That’s all for now.

Post-Election/Pre-Election Reading Recommendation

One of my favorite campaign books of all time was penned by the journalist, author, and playwright Arthur T. Hadley, who, three years ago, passed at the age of 91.  He lived a full and remarkable life, having served his country in World War II in the European theatre, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star, before entering the realm of journalism, where he continued his public service.  He was also briefly an operative, laboring mightily on behalf of Adlai Stevenson as his press secretary in the ’56 presidential campaign.  So he had experience working both for and against Eisenhower, albeit in considerably different capacities.

The book is entitled, “The Invisible Primary,” and sub-titled, “The Inside Story of the Other Presidential Race: The Making of the Candidate” and it was published in 1976, the first Post-Watergate presidential election cycle.  While Teddy White had already written multiple “The Making of the President” tomes by the time Hadley began work on his analysis, it is important to note the distinctions.  White focused largely, but not entirely, on the delegate-selection stages of the campaigns (primaries, caucuses, etc…), the Conventions, and the General Election whereas Hadley emphasized the time before the primary season began…when many potential campaigns are in the formative, pre-announcement stage and are concerned with chasing after the best talent and locking in key donors.  Hadley argued that the success of campaigns was determined, in large measure, by what occurs during this time…with actions that took place outside of the public gaze (hence: “Invisible” Primary).  For the time, Hadley's exploration was ground-breaking.

Of course, that "Invisible" descriptor seems rather quaint to the modern ear.  Hadley’s work came out before CNN and the 24-hour news cycle, before the Internet, and before social media and its implications for transparency and the immediate dissemination of news to a global audience.   

By my count, there are at least 94 potential Democratic presidential candidates whose names have been at least whispered by the Great Mentioner. Some of those, of course, have already announced their intentions to not run in 2020 (Patrick, Cuomo, and Avenatti to name three).  And others have already crossed the threshold as declared candidates (most notably Delaney and less notably – based on traditional viability metrics – Ojeda and Yang). 

I believe the field will winnow itself down to approximately 18 active and at least semi-major Democratic candidates by this time next year.  One hears talk of 30+ but even with present-day information and communications technology and its ability to help connect candidates, quickly and affordably, with prospective voters and donors, it is challenging to see how that many serious campaigns could run truly nation-wide efforts (aka the classic “Carter” model).  Of course, some might opt to compete in only certain states, concentrating on districts where they can make the best use of limited resources and gather delegates to wield clout at a, dare I say it, contested Convention.

A very large field could mean that 23% of the vote in the Iowa Democratic caucuses is good enough for a win in that state – which is good news for a candidate with a very dedicated following who can dominate a “lane” (such as Sanders).  Of course early states like Iowa and New Hampshire will likely have to compete for attention with Early Voting in larger states with more delegates, depending on the final primary calendar.  

There is time to game this out later. In any event, if you enjoyed Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes or the Jack Germond and Jules Witcover books that covered the American presidential campaigns in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and are looking for a good December 2018 read in order to better understand 2020, I highly recommend Hadley's The Invisible Primary.

In solidarity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How close should the 2018 Maryland Governor’s race have been?

After my post from this afternoon, I thought I would do some calculations.

As it stands today, the unofficial results are:

Hogan/Rutherford      1,275,644        55.4%

Jealous/Turnbull         1,002,639        43.5%

That is a difference of 273,005 votes, meaning a 136,503 vote flip between those two tickets would have been required to change the outcome.

Let’s compare this to the official 2014 gubernatorial results:

Hogan/Rutherford      884,400           51.0%

Brown/Ulman             818,890           47.2%

Without going into root causes, for a moment, it is easy to spot – at the county-level – certain trends.

While Jealous in 2018 won more votes than Brown in 2014  in six large counties…Brown pulled a larger percentage of the votes won by the Democratic nominee for County Executive in each of those counties.

There are a number of reasons for these variations (presence of a popular Democratic County Executive candidate on the ballot, Jealous’ or Brown’s (and Hogans’) history in a particular county, local party issues, etc…) but let’s take a look at 2014:

                                                Brown/Ulman Vote    D County Exec Vote     Brown/Ulman %

Anne Arundel County              58,001                         68,379                         84.8%
Baltimore County                    102,734                       143,904                       71.4%
Frederick County                     27,682                         42,444                         65.2%
Howard County                       49,227                         50,543                         97.4%
Montgomery County               163,694                       167,052                       98.0%
Prince George’s County          184,950                       195,849                       94.4%

In three counties, the Brown/Ulman ticket secured most of the Democratic vote, in three others, there is evidence of ticket-splitting involving the gubernatorial and CE races. 

The vast majority of Watson, Leggett, and Baker voters cast their ballots for Brown.  Brown obtained almost 85% of the number of votes recorded by Johnson in Anne Arundel.  Kamenetz and Garder outpaced Brown by significant amounts, which indicated a fair number of Hogan/Kamenetz and Hogan/Gardner voters in Baltimore and Frederick Counties, respectively. 

Now, let’s look at 2018:

                                                Jealous/Turnbull         D County Exec             Jealous/Turnbull %

Anne Arundel County              69,399                         118,572                       58.5% (-26.3%)
Baltimore County                    122,773                       186,693                       65.8% (-5.6%)
Frederick County                     33,355                         55,692                         59.9% (-5.3%)
Howard County                       61,146                         75,566                         80.9% (-16.5%)
Montgomery County               224,029                       259,901*                     86.2% (-11.8%)
Prince George’s County          225,889                       294,372                       76.7% (-17.7%)

Look at those percentages.  The gubernatorial “drop-off” in certain counties compared to 2014 is massive.  It should be noted that the 2018 Montgomery County calculations do not include the 76,092 Floreen voters, just those who cast their ballots for the Democratic nominee, Elrich.

Democrats casting a ballot…but not for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee (either by leaving that race blank or voting for Hogan) made a difference here.  The gap between Alsobrooks and Jealous in PG County was enormous.  It would likely have been even larger in Montgomery County if one assumes that a third of Floreen’s support came from Democrats. One can infer from the data that there were a number of Hogan/Pittman voters in AA, Hogan/Johnny O voters in Baltimore County, Hogan/Gardner voters in Frederick County, and yes, even some Hogan/Ball voters in Howard County.  

So what would have happened had Jealous garnered simply the same percentage of the Democratic County Executive candidate vote that Brown did in 2014 in each of those counties?  He would have picked up the following number of votes per county:

Anne Arundel County:             31,150 votes
Baltimore County:                   10,525 votes
Frederick County:                    2,956 votes
Howard County                       12,455 votes
Montgomery County:              30,673 votes

So far, that adds up to another 87,759 votes.  Let’s further assume they were vote flips (Hogan to Jealous).  It changes only one county outcome (Jealous winning HoCo by a narrow margin in this scenario). 

No, I have not forgotten about PG County. Using the same formula, Jealous picks up:

Prince George’s County:         51,998 votes.

Again, the lack of resources really hurt Jealous in PG…with tens of thousands of Democrats voting for Alsobrooks but not Jealous.  Now, it would be a stretch to do a vote flip here, but let’s add those Democrats to Jealous’ total and leave Hogan’s PG figures unchanged.

So the math works out like this:

Hogan: 1,275,644 – 87,759 vote flip = 1,187,885 votes
Jealous: 1,002,639 + 87,759 vote flip + 51,998 PG votes = 1,142,396 votes

Yes, a difference of only 45,489 votes, significantly closer than the 2014 Brown – Hogan vote gap (65,510 votes).  And, bear in mind, this analysis only looked at six of Maryland’s counties…not Baltimore City or any of the other Counties (most of which do not have a County Executive equivalent). 

So when looking at the Actual Vote vs. the Expected Vote, the Booms Quotient ™ validates the hypothesis (and common-sense conclusion) that yes, a number of Democratic votes were left on the proverbial table in 2018.  As to why that occurred, there are several theories.  This author discussed some factors in the previous post.  Others have recorded their thoughts as well, with varying degrees of intellectual rigor, personal credibility, rectitude, accuracy, and/or panache.

My point is this:  the Maryland gubernatorial election could and should have been closer and we need to learn lessons from it, the right lessons.  Many Maryland progressives won, so Jealous’ defeat cannot be pinned solely on his running on a progressive platform.  I believe that a thorough examination will reveal a number of reasons for his lack of electoral success in 2018…and that Democrats can and should learn from them so we can be better situated for victory at the gubernatorial level in 2022.

In solidarity.