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The Democrats’ Year

With the election about to start winding its way through the nation in primaries and caucuses, can we start predicting who will win mathematically? The surprising answer is yes, we can take a stab at it – or at least lay down what to keep an eye on based on a few models. And the wonks of the nation are responding with perspectives and tools that allow us to do just that.

The short answer? The electoral map still heavily favors Democrats for a lot of reasons. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t change or that the nation will find a way to defy the models. No matter what, however, it doesn’t look good for Republicans based on the 2012 results, Obama’s popularity, and demographics that turn against them every election cycle.

No one votes this way anymore, but we like the image of doing so.

No one votes this way anymore, but we like the image of doing so.

The most interesting and fun tool for prediction comes to us from the reliably interesting and fun site fivethirtyeight.com. Their analysis breaks the electorate down into bite-sized chunks that can be measured in each state to predict just how everything will come down, based entirely on 2012 results. You can then change the way each block votes independently of their turnout prediction to suit what might happen in 2016.

They use ethnicity as a tool for breaking down voters, a traditional if very Democrat way of doing things. The problem with this is that white voters comprise 70% of the total electorate, making them an impossibly large block by themselves. This crew takes the unique perspective of breaking them down by college educated and not, something that is hard to pick up in many polls. But the net share is still large, as shown in this chart:

Group Share Turnout Tendency
College Educated White 37% 77% 56% R
Non-College White 33% 57% 62% R
Black 12% 66% 93% D
Latino 12% 48% 71% D
Other 6% 49% 67% D
Angry White Guys - how important are they?

Angry White Guys – how important are they?

The difference between colleged and not is rather small, sadly, so this analysis feels lacking. Still, the tool gives us some interesting results. Note that Black turnout and loyalty to the Democratic Party is essential to a win, given how whites as a block voted for Romney in the last election. Drop off the black turnout and Democrats have a problem.

Then again, if the Republican nominee is Cruz or Trump, both ahead right now and both likely to turn off college educated whites, the election isn’t even close. 2012’s carry-through of 51.7% (based on fewer non college educated whites this time around) gives the same 332 electoral votes to the Democrats. But change the college educated whites from 56% republican to an even split and it becomes a landslide 363 electoral votes. That happens because North Carolina and Georgia go Democratic – both states with potentially tight Senate races, too.

If the Latino vote mirrors the Black vote you will find that Texas suddenly turns Democratic. That could happen out of fear of of Trump, after all, which shows why Latino outreach has always been a good idea for Republicans. Nevermind that brave idea – the key right now is to not scare them to the polls. Texas could indeed turn blue this time with the wrong candidate.

They're not all hipsters. They're allright.

They’re not all hipsters. They’re allright.

Away from the fun of this tool, however, the breakdown remains puzzling. As the Millenial generation comes of (voting) age we can see a stark pattern emerging – that they are nearly 2:1 likely to vote for Democrats, as opposed to aging Boomers who are 3:2 likely to vote for Republicans. If the breakdown came along generational lines, with Boomers and the older “Silent Generation” mashed together, you’d have a split of the 70% white vote into something more like 30/19/21 with Gen-X and Millenials standing apart.

Turnout among the young is hard to predict, but they showed up in a big way in 2008 and 2012. If that keeps happening, and Sen Sanders does his part to keep them engaged whether he is the nominee or not, the map starts looking mighty blue.

But we don’t have a fun model to play with to give anyone solid numbers.

No matter how you look at it, however, this is likely going to be a good year for Democrats. What matters more at this stage is how the Senate races come down in each state. Of the 16 or so that are potentially contentious at all, there are a solid four which could easily flip to the Democratic side in a landslide year – Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. If North Carolina, Ohio, or Pennsylvania join that list the Senate is unquestionably going to change.

Based on the tool we have from fivethirtyeight, this is possible. And those are, as always, the best states to watch.

What will November bring? It looks like a great year to be a Democrat, barring something really awful happening. Obama’s approval rating is net positive now and the economy does appear to be picking up. Even without those factors the Republicans have a very tough road ahead of them at best.

31 thoughts on “The Democrats’ Year

  1. This stuff is interesting. There is the underlying reality that none of the Republican candidates make any noticeable amount of sense. Given the general recognition that educated white males are by far the most privileged members of our society, that in general they (we) have it relatively easy, where does all the anger and sense of grievance come from? Where does the bad judgement at the polls come from? There is a mother lode of irrationality loose in the land that makes prediction unreliable. To me there is great danger that people may vote for a Dem but get a Repug, or so close that it doesn’t matter.

    • Conservatives have been sort of intransigent on issues of economic equality and corporate power.

      The reason for it is the US became very wealthy in terms of per capita national income during the last quarter of the 19th century. So it was felt that the scope and size of government ought not to change. The New Deal did not change that view because it was WW II that only ended the depression. Then the Cold War and then the war on terrorism permanently put conservatives into a bad mood because international relations tends not to go in the US favor a lot of the time.

      • Actually, WWII did not end the Depression – GDP had returned to 1928 levels by 1938. 🙂
        But yes, the space for “conservatism” has been limited because the world has been changing rapidly. When that pace accelerated it increased the demand for leaders that would somehow slow the pace – something no one could possibly deliver on. They tried neo-conservatism and then a very based angry …. I don’t know what this is right now, to be honest.
        Libertarianism is a kind of progressivism in that it describes how progress is made. It’s not about keeping things the same at all. So as that has taken over the minds of young otherwise “conservatives” there is no place for a whole lot of what’s going on.

    • Exactly. I was thinking of writing on this, but I honestly have no insight as to how it’s happened.
      There is a need to pull the Democratic Party to something like a progressive position. I have a feeling that you and I would agree on about half to 2/3 of what that means, but the point is that someone has to stand for progress in this country. We have to move forward in this time of change. To me, that’s all about a new generation taking more power – which I think is what we more or less should be betting on one way or the other in this election.

    • “There is the underlying reality that none of the Republican candidates make any noticeable amount of sense.”

      I could envision the last two Republican nominees as president. I didn’t vote for them, but if they had won, it wouldn’t be that….weird. Palin ended up being a pretty strange VP pick but everyone else on that side was relatively normal and at least reasonable. Trump and Cruz are just crazy and out there. It’s the strangest race I have ever seen.

  2. Congrats on an even-handed analysis without any cant.

    You are hereby appointed as special counsel to the President. : )

    Just don’t talk about the “year that everything changes.” That just does not make sense, Erik! : )

  3. I can’t believe how far the republicans have stooped! They are completely nuts. They have no sense of what is happening in the real world. I see that they are tapping into the anger but what are they talking about that really matters to people? What do they propose to create jobs? More tax cuts won’t do it. They have nothing at all to go on, its just crazy talk all around.

    • That’s what I feel, too – that they aren’t proposing anything grounded in reality and are only whipping people up based on emotional issues. As much as I criticize Sanders, for example, I at least acknowledge the reality of what he’s talking about.
      The Democrats have a solid corner on “real” issues this year, for better or worse, and I do think that the middle class people with a sense of reality will acknowledge that in time.

    • Yes! It was the most important thing I found with this tool. Also, Arizona could go blue with the same voting pattern. That would be a big deal as well.

  4. There is one topic you have not discussed much in Barataria: the American mafia.

    In the headlines these days I never hear about the famous Italian mafia families:

    –the Genovese crime family
    –the Bonano crime family
    –and of course the Gambino family

    It used to be funny to deny the existence of the American mafia, but we ought not to kid ourselves.

      • We need cojones in Barataria, not shrinking violets!

        John Gotti Sr. had taken over one of the 5 mafia families. I forget which one. But when I drink my morning coffee I take some satisfaction that Gotti Sr. sits in solitary confinement 23 hours per day.

        But the galling thing is that John Gotti Jr. runs the family crime business. He may deny it but why should I believe a mafioso? Has the word mafia come out of President Obama’s mouth? What has his attorney generals done on organized crime?

        What parts of the American mafia does is just steal stuff directly being unloaded from trucks, planes, ships, rail. Whatever it is they steal it and in great quantities. I want to say that this make me mad because whoever is reading this in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles and New Orleans — they don’t get mad at this stuff. Does the federal prosecutor in those districts do anything about it or just pretend it doesn’t exist?

  5. I want to mention that the mafia launders a lot of their money through Wall Street in all manner of financial fraud and lame brained stock schemes. That way their drug money and extortion schemes come out smelling like a rose.

    • A good point – I have heard that a lot. I also believe that sports teams are great places to launder money – huge cash flow in actual cash, paper losses all over, etc.

  6. Regarding the economic recovery we have been seeing an increase in speculative commercial real estate development. This is development of commercial space where there is no tenant–yet. Now I know supply responds to vacancy rates, this type of multiplier effect is not what the economy needs. Some of these pro formas are developed by num skulls who do a straight line projection for 5 years and then show it to the financiers who eat it up. I want to denounce this as early as possible.


  7. The Business Recession of 2016 – ? starts today. Me, myself and I called it first. Not no one with a name ending in “k”. So dear reader please do no steal my trademark. : )

    Seriously, business in America is experiencing a decline in profits, so, little ones, managed depression (a pop psychology term, at best) and good things in 2017 is sooooo passe!!!!

    Can you pronounce Business Recession of 2016 – ?

    Again I called first. Me. So FRED–watch out–I will be looking for big data, asymptotes, and inflection points that reveal my superior insight. : )

    Note to Janet Yellen: your GPA is “D”

  8. Pingback: Trade Deals – Bad Deals? | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

  9. Pingback: How? the System? Works? | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

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