Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why The Generic Ballot is Useless - The Jersey Example

So the big buzz in the days leading up to the elections was the Gallup and Rasmussen generic ballot polls that showed Republicans leading by 12-15 points. "Uncharted territory", to borrow their phrase (which I did on multiple occasions while election-blogging). It was these results which changed predictions from a 1994 or similar wave to a "tsunami", an "earthquake", a "Godzilla-esque leveling of the playing field" (OK, I made that last one up), and people started to get into the fantasy land of 70-100 seats changing hands.

We wound up with at least 60, finally tallies will probably add a few seats (but forget about hitting 70, if it's close enough to drag on this long, it's too close to defeat the Democrats "margin of fraud"), bringing us up to 63, more or less....

Epic. And yet there was a sense of disappointment in some quarters, including this little roadside stand on the vast Internet highway. I was hopeful - although not overconfident - that here in New Jersey either Anna Little would topple Frank Pallone, or Scott Sipprelle would defeat Rush Holt. Neither happened, although the Holt victory is instructive as far as the "generic ballot" goes.

Let's look at Holt's margin of victory since his district was re-jiggered in his favor following the 2000 election:

2002: 61%-39%
2004: 59%-41%
2006: 65%-35%
2008: 62%-36%

And how did he do in the Great Wave Year of 2010?

2010: Holt 53% - Sipprelle 47%

And thus we see the uselessness of the generic ballot. In NJ-12, while the generic ballot numbers may have been fairly close to the actual generic result, it was not enough to overcome a district gerrymandered to produce a Democratic outcome. In fact, is that not the entire purpose of the gerrymandered district - to create an electoral firewall that can withstand a storm similar to what just passed through?


In the 12th district, Trenton voters provided Rush Holt with 8,044 votes to Scott Sipprelle’s 437. Holt won the entire district by 13,836 votes.

The fact that in an incredibly dense state like New Jersey, that Trenton - a 45 minute ride from my house - is in my district, as well as Princeton - another 40 minutes in a different direction - is absolutely insane.

And thus the importance of the Republican's massive statehouse victories on Tuesday night. Forget about the Senate - it is the local-level activists and Tea Partiers that won their first elections as "assemblymen" that will help make sure the 2012 wave - and it is coming, trust me - doesn't run into any Democratic sandbags, but washes away all the "Representatives" that no longer truly represent large swaths of their districts....

So while I originally bemoaned the chance of ever eradicating Rush Holt, now I see that Tuesday's storm has softened him up considerably; with the inevitable redistricting (even done by a Democratic Jersey statehouse; word is that NJ will lose at least one Congressional district based on the new census. And the Dems can thanks themselves for that, as tax refugees stream out of Jersey....) it is likely he will emerge at least somewhat weaker.

And that might be all it takes to switch 3% of NJ-12 in 2012.

To put a twist a hackneyed liberal expression: Ignore the vote nationally, focus your vote locally...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis!