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.

Race and the Maryland Governor's Race

I am not saying that David’s Lublin’s piece today (AutopsyPart III) is hack-work, but he misses some important points.

His section on the “over-reliance on Republican racism” in particular is off-the-mark.  Governor Hogan’s positioning wasn’t designed so much to appeal to Black voters, but to persuade white voters that a vote for Hogan wasn’t a vote for a racist.

Let me walk through this line of thinking for a moment.  There are certain topics that don’t register as highly salient on standard survey questions (such as: “What is the most important problem facing the United States/Maryland/your local community at the present time?”).  Abortion usually polls in the single-digits on such open-ended issue questions.  However, whether a candidate is pro-choice or pro-life is like oxygen for many voters…the absence of the “correct position” is instantly disqualifying.

A similar dynamic is at play when it comes to race.  Now, white voters may be reluctant to support a racist candidate or, and this is a critical difference, they may say they are disinclined to back a racist candidate…but end up voting for them anyway (see: Helms, Jesse; Gantt, Harvey; North Carolina; 1990).  But if a GOP candidate positions themselves as “good” or at least “neutral” (as if there is such a thing) on race, they can assuage the fears of white voters who would be mightily offended if they were called racist.

Hogan did a good job insulating himself from most charges of racism. One could argue that several of Hogan’s actions were grounded in racist beliefs and/or supported by racists…the cancellation of the Red Line and how he handled issues pertaining to Baltimore City schools leap to mind.  In both cases, Hogan’s position was in line with not only the vast majority of Republican voters…but also a sizable percentage of white independents and Democrats.  It was this sort of broad appeal, combined with a “nice guy” image of a Governor (who is, by the by, married to an Asian woman and who also picked a Black Lieutenant Governor) that helped convince voters, mostly white voters, that it would be “OK” to cast a ballot for Hogan since Hogan "must be" "OK" on race...

Hogan’s campaign was also in a position where they largely didn’t have to go negative against the Democratic nominee, Ben Jealous. They (and some independent expenditure groups) did, but not enough to rankle most Black voters and white moderates.  So this allowed Hogan to maintain his “good guy who would not exploit racial fears” image.

And this is the other side of the equation, if Jealous were white yet an insurgent (such as Bernie Sanders)  – I believe his campaign would have been better funded.  If Jealous was Black and “establishment” – his campaign would have had more resources.  Being both Black and an insurgent is a key point of differentiation.  Lublin brought up Abrams and Gillum.  Abrams was a progressive, yet establishment, candidate who crushed her primary opponent by a 76% - 24% margin. Andrew Gillum was a progressive, yet establishment, candidate who faced off against 2 1/2 serious and 3 1/2 minor challengers.  Jealous was painted, by some, as some sort of Black Radical Socialist (which considering his establishment credentials with the NAACP and as a venture capitalist would have been a laughable communications frame had it not been so effective).  Jealous also faced off against several worthy opponents in the primary…and some seemed to be giving somewhat less than their best when the General Election rolled around. Whereas the Democratic parties in their respective states rallied around both Gillum and Abrams, the consolidation of support in Maryland seemed less than total in the case of Jealous.  This was reflected in both the public surveys as well as in the campaign finance numbers.

As a popular incumbent governing at a time when the economy was perceived to be good and enjoying large leads in the polls and in fundraising, Hogan never needed to do anything that might damage his “not a racist” image.  Did this help Hogan with some Black voters? I would not be surprised if post-Election polls showed Hogan garnering 15% of the Black vote, and perhaps something closer to 20% among affluent Black voters, but I would argue that Hogan’s primary focus was on making sure that he didn’t lose support among white moderates.  And by being seen as not a racist, he removed an obstacle that helped ensure that such white voters would not take a good look at Jealous, even if they were more closely aligned with Jealous on an array of public policy matters.

Finally, I believe that Jealous’ loss had far more to do with his campaign’s lack of financial resources than his platform.  Had the Establishment lined up for Jealous, as they did for Brown, in this election cycle, he would have had the ability to project his message far more effectively across the state.  Would it have been enough to win?  Who knows.  But by Jealous not being able to convey his narrative, Hogan dominated the conversation in the closing weeks of the campaign, which undoubtedly contributed to his margin of victory.  We need to consider why that fundraising disparity existed and for Lublin to brush off the “progressives vs. the establishment” tension as “a bunch of hooey” is, quite simply, nonsense.  

In solidarity.