Monday, November 08, 2010

Number Crunching Part 1: Gaps

Number Crunching Part 1: Some Gaps for Dems

The Election Day dust is about settled here in Johnson County, where we were lucky enough to have no close contests (as I write, the Krieman vs. Chickenman state senate race down by Ottumwa is still up in the air). So it's time to dig deeper into the numbers.

Close to half the Johnson County vote - 48% - was cast before Election Day. That's down a touch from the 55% early in the presidential, but up more than 10% from the last midterm. No, not all of that was driven by the 19 bar campaign. The Democrats stepped up their vote by mail program and the Republicans, for the first time in about a decade, actually had a serious absentee effort.

There's a self-selected gap between those absentee and election day votes, as Republicans, after a decade of being taught that early voting is "fraud," are still more likely to wait.

But there are some remarkable parallels between two splits in Johnson County: the Iowa City vs. rest of county split and the absentee vs. Election Day split.

Here's the Democratic top of ticket percentages for early voting vs. Election Day. (Also included is soon to be former Supreme Court Justice David Baker's race, which was listed first among the justices on the ballot and had slightly higher participation than the other two.)

AbsenteePollsTotalAbs minus Polls

Now consider Iowa City vs. the rest of the county:

 Iowa CityNot ICTotalIowa City
minus non IC

Note the near-identical numbers that we saw in the absentee vs. polls results: the bulk of the Democratic ticket running 10 or 11 points better in town, and the absentee and Iowa City percentages within a point of each other.

The other thing to note is that the bulk of the Democratic ticket clustered right at 62% countywide. That's down a bit from the 68% Culver and Mauro pulled in 2006; Loebsack was only at 60 that year but of course that was as a "no-chance" challenger to Jim Leach.

My gut check is that the lower percentage is less from people moving away from Democrats and more from higher GOP turnout, especially in early voting.

The big surprise for me here is that late-starting newcomer Jon Murphy ran dead even with Culver and Loebsack. My guess is that's straight ticket or de facto straight ticket voting rather than any intrinsic strength of Murphy or weakness of David Vaudt.

Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald ran a bit ahead of the Democratic ticket, likely due to high name ID from their looooong term incumbency. (Mike Mauro, with only one term under his belt, was less fortunate. Maybe people think state auditors, like county auditors, are in charge of elections.)

But Francis Thicke trailed the bulk of the ticket, and Roxanne Conlin performed lower yet, losing the election day vote while winning the county overall. This tells me that folks who were voting a basically straight ticket (as evidenced by the Murphy result) were crossing over in these two races.

Why, I don't get; I was a Conlin true believer from the get-go. I felt some air go out of the tires midsummer, with the 8 point poll getting discredited and with the Gazette's article praising Grassley's seniority. I argued at the time that "senority" hadly matters if Grassley is doing the opposite of what you want, but maybe folks hedged their bets.

Still, it should be noted, Conlin is the first Grassley opponent to win ANY county since John Culver. Hometown candidates Art Small and Jean Lloyd-Jones lost Johnson County, as did David Osterberg who was from just over the Linn line in Mt. Vernon.

It's hard to imagine a sharper contrast than agri-biz Bill Northey and Fairfield organic farmer Thicke. (Does Fairfield have a Iowa City-like stigma?) But of course, I'm living in isolation here in the People's Republic: the only county Conlin won, top Culver county by ten points, and 25 points better than the state on the Supreme Court. I never saw a NO judges sign until the Register story on the victory party.

Which brings me to the judges: in a race that was de facto partisan, they performed like the Democrats, better in town and early. What's interesting to me is that the under-vote (people who skipped the contest) was twice as high early (25%) than on Election day (12.5).

More on under-voting tomorrow.

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