October 14, 2008
The GOP aims downballot

There's a lot to talk about in this front page story about how the Texas GOP is going to focus its efforts on downballot races, but let's start by talking about the one thing the article doesn't bring up: Money. The Democrats have a comparable amount of it, and in many key cases they have a lot more. That's a sharp reversal of recent trends, and given how Democrats have been making gaisn while having a relative paucity of funds, it bodes very well for them. It's not just in the State House, either: Dems are at least competitive financially in three State Senate races. Reps. Nick Lampson and Ciro Rodriguez hold significant fundraising leads in their re-election bids, while Larry Joe Doherty and Michael Skelly have each raised over a million dollars and are being helped by the DCCC. The state and various county Democratic Parties, especially here in Harris, have far more resources than they're used to having. It's true that John Cornyn has a lot more money than Rick Noriega, and that Tom Craddick has a lot of cash he can slosh around. The point is that Dems are in a far stronger position on this front than they've been in years, and Republicans should not be assumed to be able to swoop in and dominate the endgame.

There's still a lot of money being raised at this time, too. The HDCC has a big fundraiser coming up on Monday the 20th at the Mithoff house with special guests Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Congressman Chet Edwards; I'll have more details on this later. At this point, if you've been watching TV at all, you know the airwaves are slowly but surely being saturated by ads, and that's what a lot of this late money will go into. It's almost like living in a swing state, which when you think about it is basically what Harris County is these days.

Now onto other matters:

Two national Internet sites that aggregate poll results -- Pollster.com and RealClearPolitics.com -- Monday showed voters nationally are trending toward Democrat Barack Obama for president. And Obama has a lead in enough states at the moment to collect more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

But the average of national polls that have sampled Texas show McCain has a commanding lead here with an average of more than 13 percentage points over Obama.

There's FiveThirtyEight.com as well, which is my preferred choice for poll-watching, since it includes all the data you could want. And if you look at 538's data for Texas, you'll see that there have been seven Presidential polls of Texas since June. Three are by Rasmussen, from July, August, and September, which show McCain leading by eight, ten, and nine, respectively. There are one-offs from UT (McCain +10, July) and the Texas Lyceum (McCain +5, June). And there's two from ARG, which put McCain up by 21 in September and 19 in October. Average it all out and you do get a composite score of McCain +13 in the Lone Star State, but when five polls have him up by 5 to 10 points, and two others say it's in the +20 range, you have to wonder if maybe one of these things is not like the other. I don't know what ARG's poll innards look like, and for all I know they could be right, though their track record doesn't inspire confidence. I could see McCain getting 57%, which is the level the ARG result for October has for him, but you're going to have a real hard time convincing me that he's on track to do almost as well in 2008 as George W. Bush did in 2004. Among other things, Congressional and Senate polling do not jibe with what ARG is reporting. Throw out ARG and you've got McCain up by an average of 8.4, which is right in line with Paul Burka's guess as to the final spread. I'd love to see more polling, and I'd love to see ARG's internals, but until I see evidence that they're on to something, I cannot take ARG's numbers seriously.

Neither presidential campaign has an organization in Texas designed to win the state.

Both field calls from the Texas news media through their national headquarters. Whatever Obama advertising Texans see on television arrives in their home as part of a buy on national programming.

As noted, there's a lot of ads on the air right now. I don't know how extensive the air wars are in other parts of the state - for sure, things are hopping in places like the Metroplex - but the more Obama is on the air, even as part of a national buy, and McCain isn't, the more likely Obama is to draw out people who might not otherwise have voted. We saw in 2006 the difference in vote totals for candidates who advertised extensively and those who didn't. Iconsider this a factor in the Dems' favor. Not a huge one, but in their favor nonetheless.

[Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Michael] Williams, who is in a contest with little-known Democratic opponent Mark Thompson, said he believes concerns about Republicans not voting in Texas due to a dispirited McCain campaign were washed away when McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

"There's no doubt that there was an intensity gap between Democrats and Republicans prior to the conventions," Williams said. "With the selection of Governor Palin as Senator McCain's running mate, the intensity gap closed significantly."

I would agree that Sarah Palin has mostly fired up the Republican base, though there has been some blowback as well. More importantly, she's been a drag on the ticket with independent and moderate voters, as poll after poll has shown. What happens to the Republicans in Texas if the soft-R vote, the folks who've been pushing the button at the top level for the Rs but who don't vote in primaries and have been persuaded to vote for at least some Ds downticket, find Palin (and McCain for having chosen her) unpalatable? Now maybe some of those judicial seats are at risk, especially with all the endorsements the Dems are getting. Again, it would be nice to have more polling, but I'm not convinced at this point that Palin has been a net positive for the Rs in Texas. I can see it going either way.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 14, 2008 to Election 2008

Word needs to spread throughout the Texas democratic community to vote down ballot for democrats. It is a shame the national dems have not focused money and time in Texas. The change this election could have been incredibly dramatic in Texas. Instead we will be behind the curve compared to the rest of the country. Our time could of been now for great improvement in our state government, instead for the most part it will be later.

Posted by: cb on October 15, 2008 11:38 AM
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