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The media has covered Paul’s CPAC address by playing a simple sound byte: “The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”  Yes, that is in the speech, but there is much more. You can read the full transcript here. A few selections:

On drones:

Eisenhower wrote, “How far can you go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?” If we destroy our enemy but lose what defines our freedom in the process, have we really won? If we allow one man to charge Americans as enemy combatants and indefinitely detain or drone them, then what exactly is it our brave young men and women are fighting for?

On the future of the GOP:

The Republican Party has to change—by  going forward to the classical and timeless ideas enshrined in our Constitution. When we understand that that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then we will become the dominant national party again. It is time for us to revive Reagan’s law: For liberty to expand, government must now contract. For the economy to grow, government must get out of the way.

The address is rather casual and has the feel of a stump speech. One can only wonder if Senator Paul is getting serious about seeking the GOP nomination for 2016. If so, does he stand a fighting chance?

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New Hampshire’s status as a swing state has had several negative consequences for its residents:

  • Its politics have been nationalized, and so the national political mood determines the partisan composition of the winning state legislative candidates.
  • Its residents have to put up with avalanches of political advertising and campaigning by national candidates.
  • There are controversies over voter eligibility. Some Republicans like to tell dark tales of voters being “bussed in” from Massachusetts to cast presidential votes, taking advantage of same-day registration. I don’t buy these claims — extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence — but there has indeed been a serious controversy over whether college students from other states ought to be able to vote in N.H. The only serious argument I can see against their being allowed to vote in N.H. is that they are unfamiliar with the needs and problems of the state and their town and tend therefore to cast less informed votes in N.H. than they could in their home state (absentee). That makes sense to me. When I was a college student, I voted absentee in Houston because I knew the issues, not Virginia where I was going to school. But the courts have said that college students must be allowed to vote in N.H. if they want to. Most of them do want to, because New Hampshire is a swing state.
  • The third-party vote always gets squeezed because of tactical voting.

These problems go away if New Hampshire passes a law requiring New Hampshire’s electoral votes to go to the national popular vote winner. “But New Hampshire would be ignored by the presidential candidates!” Yes — good. I can’t imagine that New Hampshire has meaningfully benefited from presidential candidates’ attention. There’s not a single program or project that I can think of that New Hampshire benefits from because of a presidential promise made to the state’s voters during a general election. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary already gives it plenty of influence in the presidential selection process, and I don’t suggest giving that up.

The college-student problem, if it is one, goes away if New Hampshire is not a swing state. College students will vote wherever they feel they have a greater stake and better information, which is exactly as it should be. The avalanche of advertising stops, allowing voters to think harder about state and local issues and candidates. People will be more willing to vote sincerely in the presidential election, rather than for the lesser of two evils.

So why not, New Hampshire? You can take yourself off the table as an electoral college prize and regain some sanity and democratic autonomy for your state.

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Per commenter FreeDem’s request, here are some other ways to interpret Ron Paul’s primary performances in each state, building on the statistical models estimated here.

The first exercise is to simulate what Paul’s percentage of the vote would have been in each state had they all voted at the same time with the same “institutions” (candidates on the ballot, primary vs. caucus, closed vs. open, and so on). For this exercise, I assumed that all calendar and institutional characteristics were at the median for the nation as a whole. Thus, I assume a primary not a caucus, a closed primary rather than an open or semi-open one, three other candidates on the ballot, a ballot date after Mitt Romney had built substantial momentum with his Michigan victory on Feb. 28 — but before his virtual mathematical clinching on Apr. 2, and no home state advantage for any candidate.

Under these conditions, Paul would have obtained 13.9% of the vote in the average state. Here is how he would be forecast to do in each state, in alphabetical order:

State pred12
Alabama 7.39%
Alaska 15.37%
Arizona 8.70%
Arkansas 13.77%
California 12.17%
Colorado 10.81%
Connecticut 15.94%
Delaware 12.48%
District of Columbia 12.17%
Florida 10.14%
Georgia 12.20%
Hawaii 12.30%
Idaho 11.53%
Illinois 9.68%
Indiana 15.93%
Iowa 19.70%
Kansas 13.73%
Kentucky 14.82%
Louisiana 10.51%
Maine 19.48%
Maryland 13.58%
Massachusetts 17.73%
Michigan 16.80%
Minnesota 12.71%
Mississippi 6.53%
Missouri 12.76%
Montana 14.80%
Nebraska 11.26%
Nevada 10.09%
New Hampshire 31.74%
New Jersey 11.75%
New Mexico 12.29%
New York 17.28%
North Carolina 12.63%
North Dakota 15.54%
Ohio 12.80%
Oklahoma 16.45%
Oregon 15.12%
Pennsylvania 26.43%
Rhode Island 27.08%
South Carolina 16.29%
South Dakota 15.40%
Tennessee 13.42%
Texas 15.57%
Utah 5.39%
Vermont 31.41%
Virginia 24.61%
Washington 15.81%
West Virginia 12.54%
Wisconsin 13.85%
Wyoming 13.27%

The rank order of states here is of course exactly the same as in the table of residuals from my earlier post, but the presentation of the numbers is perhaps more intuitive.

The next analysis looks at why Paul improved from 2008 so much in some states and little if any in others. In my last post I found that Paul’s electoral performance in 2012 is predicted by state opinion ideology, with more left-wing states giving more support to Paul. However, 2008 LP support is not at all correlated with Paul support in 2012. I inferred that Paul received a great deal of support from voters who would otherwise go Democratic and from liberal Republicans and independents, particularly since the association between ideology and Paul support strengthened conditional on an open primary.

However, I did not control for how “pro-Ron Paul” a state was in 2008. FreeDem reports seeing some odd state-level differences between Paul’s 2008 success and 2012 success when eyeballing the data. Using my analysis of the 2008 returns, I now try formally testing whether Ron Paul’s support in 2008 was correlated with his support in 2012. I regress the log of Paul support in 2012 on the institutional variables, Democratic-Green vote share in 2008, and the log of institution-corrected Paul vote share in 2008. Here are the results:

. regress lnrp caucus12 open12 closed12 ocb clinch home demgr08 lnrp08

Number of obs =      49
F(  8,    40) =    9.67
Prob > F      =  0.0000
R-squared     =  0.6592
Adj R-squared =  0.5911
Root MSE      =  .31484

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        lnrp |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
-------------+----------------------------------------------------------------
    caucus12 |   .5744784   .1465334     3.92   0.000     .2783233    .8706335
      open12 |   .0946405   .1444686     0.66   0.516    -.1973414    .3866224
    closed12 |  -.1744016   .1367005    -1.28   0.209    -.4506836    .1018805
         ocb |  -.1192173   .0418184    -2.85   0.007    -.2037355   -.0346991
      clinch |  -.1881422   .1700441    -1.11   0.275    -.5318141    .1555297
        home |   .0832717   .2090593     0.40   0.693     -.339253    .5057963
     demgr08 |   .0091053    .004799     1.90   0.065    -.0005938    .0188044
      lnrp08 |   .4681954   .1376803     3.40   0.002     .1899331    .7464578
       _cons |  -.5945686   .6079726    -0.98   0.334    -1.823327    .6341899
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now I do find evidence that Paul’s support in 2012 depended on the strength of the Paul constituency in 2008, controlling for everything else. Although the statistical significance is strong, the substantive import is in a sense strikingly low. Since the dependent and independent variable are both in logs, we can interpret the coefficient on Ron Paul support in ’08 — 0.468 — as an elasticity. In other words, for every 1% more votes Paul got in 2008, he got just 0.5% more votes in 2012. That tells us that while Ron Paul’s base turned out again for him in 2012, his additional success was probably not related to picking up a bunch of semi-libertarian marginal voters who might have gone with him had his campaign been stronger in 2008. Instead, he reached a whole new constituency. Paul more than doubled his vote share between 2008 and 2012. That mostly did not come from mobilizing more libertarians. He got the libertarians to vote for him again, but most of his new votes came from people we would not normally think of as libertarians.

Who exactly were these new Paul voters? We can find out more, I think, by looking at individual states where Paul improved or did not improve between elections. Here are some states where Paul did badly in both years (adjusted vote shares from 2008 and 2012 in parentheses): Alabama (2.9%/7.4%), Utah (3.0%/5.4%), Mississippi (1.9%/6.5%), Arizona (4.4%/8.7%), and Illinois (5.4%/9.7%). These are states without many libertarians and also without many social and foreign policy moderates and liberals. We could throw in West Virginia (2.9%/12.5%), Florida (3.8%/10.1%), New Jersey (4.9%/11.8%), Delaware (4.2%/12.5%), and California (6.3%/12.2%) as also being of this type.

Then we have states like Idaho (10.8%/11.5%), D.C. (7.8%/12.2%), Montana (7.8%/14.8%), North Dakota (7.1%/15.5%), South Dakota (8.6%/15.4%), and Washington (8.2%/15.8%), where Paul did well in 2008 but did not improve much in 2012. He seemed to hit a ceiling in places like these. My hypothesis is that these states have a lot of libertarians but not many social and foreign policy moderates who are willing to take a Republican ballot. In all the states I just mentioned except perhaps D.C., social conservatives tend to dominate the state Republican party. Washington may be a partial exception, but only a partial one. Washington certainly does not have the tradition of moderate Republicanism that, say, Massachusetts and Connecticut do.

Then there are states where Paul underperformed in 2008 and then improved significantly in 2012: Connecticut (4%/15.9%), Indiana (4%/15.9%), Iowa (3.8%/19.7%), Kentucky (3.8%/14.8%), Massachusetts (3%/17.7%), Oklahoma (4%/16.5%), Rhode Island (6.1%/27.1%), South Carolina (4.3%/16.3%), and Vermont (6.4%/31.4%). New York (6.7%/17.3%) is a state where Paul went from slightly above average to well above. What at least some of these states have in common is a lot of former Republicans and independents who are moderate to liberal on social and foreign policy issues. (I can’t explain Oklahoma, but South Carolina’s improvement might have to do something with a bounce from New Hampshire, and Kentucky with Rand Paul’s prominence.) In Vermont, especially, I will bet my bottom dollar that most Ron Paul voters were centrists or even progressives ticked off at wars, banker bailouts, and civil liberty infringements, but not necessarily signing onto Paul’s whole economic program. His outstanding improvement there may also have something to do with spillover from New Hampshire.

Finally, there are only a few states where Paul did very well in both years: Maine (6.9%/19.5%), Michigan (7.2%/16.8%), New Hampshire (11.2%/31.7%), and Pennsylvania (7.8%/26.4%). These seem like states with both quite a few libertarians and lots of moderates and progressives willing to take a Republican ballot. While economic insecurity might be another hypothesis for the increase in Paul support, that wouldn’t explain why Paul did so poorly in Nevada (10.1% adjusted), New Jersey (11.8% adjusted), or Georgia (12.2% adjusted), all of which have suffered more than the national average from the bursting of the housing bubble.

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After the 2008 primary season, I analyzed Ron Paul’s performance in each state to see how institutional factors such as caucus and primary form affected his electoral success. This exercise turned out to be useful for estimating the size of the pro-liberty electorate in each state. In this post, I do the same with the 2012 results.

The dependent variable in this analysis is the percentage of the vote obtained in each state’s statewide primary or caucus. If a state held both a primary and a caucus or convention, I used the primary results. The independent variables are as follows. (All variables were taken from Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.)

First, I use a dummy variable for whether the state had a caucus or convention versus a primary. As an outsider candidate with a committed band of activist supporters, Paul tended to do much better in caucuses than primaries.

Next, I also included dummy variables for who is eligible to vote: a dummy for an open caucus/primary, in which all voters are allowed to vote, and a dummy for a closed caucus/primary, in which only registered Republicans are allowed to vote. The excluded category consists of “modified-open” elections, in which independents and Republicans are allowed to vote. Since Paul was more popular among self-identified independents than among self-identified Republicans, it stands to reason that he would do best in open primaries and worst in closed primaries.

I also tried variables for the number of other candidates running active races and appearing on the ballot. In this regard, I counted only “significant” candidates that might have had a chance of winning, that is, the following six (other than Paul): Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann. Bachmann dropped out of the race after Iowa and Perry and Huntsman after New Hampshire. Thereafter, Santorum withdrew only after the April 10 primaries and Gingrich held on until May 2. However, in many states – almost entirely primary states – candidates that had withdrawn remained on the ballot and often received significant support. We should expect both of these variables to have a negative influence on Paul’s vote share (for instance, in Virginia, where only Romney and Paul were on the ballot, Paul benefited from tactical voting by supporters of other candidates and received 40%), but in fact the number of candidates in the race had a statistically significant, positive association with Paul’s support (candidates on the ballot has the expected negative association, as shown below). This result is theoretically implausible and apparently simply captures Paul’s otherwise unexplained success in Iowa and New Hampshire. Therefore, in the estimations reported here, I have included solely the variable for number of non-Paul candidates on the ballot.

Next, I included a three-point variable for the extent to which Mitt Romney had clinched the Republican nomination when the primary in question was held. After February 28, it became very unlikely that Romney would lose, as Nate Silver noted here. After April 3, it became a near mathematical certainty that Romney would win. Therefore, the “clinching” variable takes on values of 0.5 for contests held after February 28 through April 3 and values of 1.0 for contests held after April 3.

Finally, I include a variable intended to capture home-state effects for active candidates. It is coded zero for all states except Massachusetts, Georgia, and Texas. For the former two, home states of Romney and Gingrich, respectively, it is coded -1, and for the last, Paul’s home state, it is coded 1. (Santorum dropped out of the race before the Pennsylvania vote, for which reason it is coded zero.)

The dependent variable is rather skewed, as the following histogram shows:

As a result, statistical analysis with this variable revealed the presence of heteroskedasticity, which violates the assumptions necessary for Ordinary Least Squares regression. Therefore, I transformed the variable using the natural log, which gave it a roughly normal distribution and eliminated heteroskedasticity in the regression analysis:

The results of the regression analysis are reported below the fold:
(more…)

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At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer details the Democratic Party’s platform’s ratification of the Obama Administration’s wholesale retreat on civil liberties. When stacking this sort of thing alongside the GOP’s attempt to become the Defenders of Medicare, I not only find it difficult to care who wins the next presidential election, but to understand why anyone else would.

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One keeps hearing that the euro crisis could doom Obama’s chances for reelection. (Because, after all, that’s the reason we should be concerned about the economy: its effects on politics.) I’m not so sure. Voters are hardly well informed, but if the Eurozone goes into deep recession and the U.S. into a mild one, won’t voters discount economic performance a great deal by looking at the cross-national difference? U.S. GDP growth of about 2% (annualized) right now is mediocre, but compared to Eurozone growth of about zero, it looks pretty good. Powell and Whitten (1993) and Whitten and Palmer (1999) find just this in their cross-national analyses of economic voting: the models do better when you assume that voters deduct OECD growth from national growth when assessing incumbents. No one in the U.S. presidential forecasting game seems to talk about these papers.

So here’s the bleg: Has anyone actually tried doing standard-issue presidential forecasting models with a cross-national growth adjustment? If so, what are the results? I’d find it hard to believe that U.S. voters are all that different from European voters in this respect. If no one’s looked at this, it seems to me that we need to put a firm thumb on the scale in favor of Obama when assessing the forecasts being released now.

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I’ve never voted for a Democrat or Republican for president at a general election. I’ve always voted for a Libertarian (in 2008 I voted for George Phillies, who was on the ballot as a Libertarian in New Hampshire in addition to the official candidate, Bob Barr), and I’ve never had reason to regret my vote. Throughout my adult life (I first voted in 1996), every U.S. president has been worse than the one before, and the major-party candidates they defeated would almost certainly have been just as bad.

One common argument I hear from Republicans is that libertarians should vote for Republican presidential candidates because of the Supreme Court. And indeed, libertarians generally share conservatives’ enthusiasm for the prospect of the Supreme Court’s overturning at least part of the PPACA. However, the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision authorizing invasive strip searches of all arrestees shows us the other side of the coin: the Supreme Court’s conservatives are disturbingly willing to defer to the executive branch on issues of non-economic personal liberties. Most of the politically controversial cases with which the federal judiciary deals have to do with civil liberties and civil rights. Major Commerce Clause cases come around only once every few years — and even there, Scalia and Kennedy are unreliable.

How will the current Court (more…)

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