Friday, November 14, 2014

Why Did Democrats Lose–It’s the Turnout Stupid!

Why did the Democrats overwhelmingly lose in the 2014 elections? Well, if you listen to Democrats they point to the turnout. This is partially true, but lack of interest in elections is a result of the political system and usually due to the lackluster performance of the Party in power – which is the Democrats in 2014. In 2008 and even 2012 the Democrats rode the coattails of Obama and large turnouts. Democrats continually brag about their ground game, their get out to vote effort, and their use of technology to get it done. But it was non-existent in 2014. Democrats even had a huge advantage in money and still could not get their base to the polls. The point is that turnout is the responsibility of the Party and the Democrats failed.

Obama claimed that two-thirds of the voters did not turnout. Technically, that is almost accurate. The turnout of the voter eligible population was between 37 and 38 percent or about 85 million people. Hence, nearly two-thirds did not vote. However, at best 70% of the voter eligible population votes. In 2012, nearly 135 million people voted meaning about 50 million people did not vote in 2014 or about 15% of the population.

Democrats pointed to the early vote statistics to show they were doing well. In Georgia, the Black vote was up. Across the country they bragged about their ability to get those voters who did not vote in 2012 to the polls (that was a focus). Democrats had advantages in most every critical state that tracked political ideology – North Carolina, Iowa, Maine, and Louisiana (and they closed the gap in Florida over 2010 turnout levels). In fact, early voting was up 8% over 2010. If you read the Huffington Post blog posted by early voting expert Michael McDonald one would suspect the Democrats would fair well in the 2014 critical races.

Democrats claimed the polls were biased towards Republicans. We found this out to be outright wrong and in fact, the polls were skewed majorly towards Democrats. In governor races the polls were wrong in many critical states: Illinois by 5.6 points; Kansas by 5.9 points; Vermont by 14.9 points; Maryland by 21 points; Ohio by 12.9 points; Wisconsin by 3.5 points; and Georgia by 4 points to name a few. In critical Senate races the polls were off as follows: 10.2 points in Arkansas; 11.6 points in Kansas; 4.9 points in Georgia; 8.3 points in Kentucky; 6.2 points in Iowa; 2.4 points in North Carolina; 10.6 points in West Virginia, and 10.4 points in Virginia. These are major errors and most outside the margin of error.

An article by the National Journal blamed the turnout as to why the race in Virginia ended up being so close. This is partly true, but as we pointed out above, it is up to the Party to get their voters to the polls. Evaluating the Virginia turnout the following facts can be established: Turnout was also low in Republican strongholds. Republicans received a smaller portion of the vote in coal country compared to 2012 mainly due to third party candidates. Yes, turnout was low throughout the state and Republicans outperformed Democrats outside coal country by about 5 points from 2012 to 2014.

The reason given for the Democrat low turnout in Virginia were mind boggling. The journal said that low turnout for the Democrats was mainly due to the fact that most House races and the Senate race were not going to be competitive. Well, couldn’t this also be a reason for the Republican low turnout? In fact, data suggests that voters supporting candidates that are more likely to lose are more likely to stay at home and not vote. To dismiss the possibility that more independent voters broke for Gillespie is downright arrogant.

Low Democratic turnout certainly cannot be an excuse in states like Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Vermont where Partisan Voter Indexes (PVI) are over 10 points in favor of Democrats. My data posted last week suggests that an inordinate number of Democrats and Independents had to have voted for Republican candidates – especially in House and Governor races (after all, the Democrats convincingly won Senate races in Illinois and Massachusetts).

So, blaming low Democratic turnout is certainly not an excuse. This is not all true and it is being distorted by Democrats. I hope Democrats continue to live in this fantasy land in 2016 because it will cost them the White House. After all, turnout in states with highly contested races was well above 40% and even if the turnout was super high for a midterm election, say 50%, it would not have changed the outcomes in any of these races – they were all blowouts!

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