# The Frost effect

One of the things that was hotly debated in the aftermath of the 2004 elections was whether Martin Frost’s campaign for the 32nd CD had a positive effect on downballot races, or if the resources he expended only benefitted his own totals. I think I have some data that may help answer this question.

What makes this tough to answer is finding an appropriate basis for comparison. Looking at turnout in a given precinct, even in a strongly Democratic precinct, isn’t enough, since you can’t say for certain based on higher than usual numbers who those people were actually voting for. Similarly, you can’t just look at returns in a given precinct, since you don’t know what the baseline performance would have been. What you need is to compare returns in precincts where Frost was on the ballot to those without him, and you’ve got to compare the results for a downballot candidate to a baseline result for each.

I got an inkling for how to do this while doing an analysis of Chris Harris’ SD9, which was requested of me awhile back. What gave me the idea was noticing that within SD9 there were four contested Congressional races, and that there was a wide spread in performance among the four Democratic candidates.

```
Results in SD9

CD26 - Michael Burgess versus Lico Reyes

Candidate     Votes      Vote Pct   Vote Diff   Pct Diff
========================================================
Burgess      38,709         78.90        +833      +4.45
Reyes        10,353         21.10      -2,643      -4.45

Bush         37,876         74.45
Kerry        12,996         25.55

CD06 - Joe Barton versus Morris Meyer

Candidate     Votes      Vote Pct   Vote Diff   Pct Diff
========================================================
Barton       22,824         52.54        -893      +0.03
Meyer        20,618         47.46        -780      -0.03

Bush         23,717         52.57
Kerry        21,398         47.43

CD24 - Kenny Marchant versus Gary Page

Candidate     Votes      Vote Pct   Vote Diff   Pct Diff
========================================================
Marchant     56,759         61.67      -3,210      -0.35
Page         35,278         38.33      -1,440      +0.35

Bush         59,969         62.02
Kerry        36,718         37.98

CD32 - Pete Sessions versus Martin Frost

Candidate     Votes      Vote Pct   Vote Diff   Pct Diff
========================================================
Sessions     13,104         52.87      -2,111      -6.65
Frost        11,680         47.13      +1,333      +6.65

Bush         15,215         59.52
Kerry        10,347         40.48
```

“Vote diff”, in case you can’t tell, is the difference between that candidate’s total and the corresponding total in the Presidential race. “Pct diff” is the same for the two-party vote percentage. An eleven point range between Frost, who got more votes than John Kerry, and Reyes, whose opponent got more votes than Bush. Clearly, Frost’s campaign made a difference for himself. How can we translate this to other races?

What I decided to do what this: Within SD9, there were two Dallas County races, one of which you may have heard about. Those races were for Judge of the 303rd District Court, between Beth Maultsby (R) and Dennise Garcia (D), and for Sheriff, between Danny Chandler (R) and Lupe Valdez (D). Did Martin Frost help either of those two Democratic candidates get more votes than they otherwise would have?

The method I chose was this: Compare the performance of Garcia and Valdez to that of John Kerry in the precincts where Frost was on the ballot to those where he wasn’t. The theory here is that since there was essentially no campaigning by Kerry in Texas, his performance could be considered a baseline, a minimum of what a Democrats should get (it’s probably a little higher than that since there was some campaigning by Bush, but that’s not really important for these purposes.) Only the Marchant-Page race covered any significant part of Dallas County in SD9 (there were two precincts in the Burgess/Reyes race, totalling about 50 votes), so we’ve got a fairly straightforward basis for comparison. Looking at the less-heralded judge’s race as well helps us to filter out whether any differences are due to Valdez’ well-known effort.

With that in mind, here’s what we get:

```
Dallas County portion of SD9

=================================
Bush         43,097         60.66
Kerry        27,950         39.34

Maultsby     38,867         57.59
Garcia       28,627         42.41

Chandler     39,113         57.29
Valdez       29,159         42.71

Sessions/Frost precincts

=================================
Bush         15,215         59.52
Kerry        10,347         40.48

Sessions     13,104         52.87
Frost        11,680         47.13

Maultsby     13,680         56.35
Garcia       10,597         43.65

Chandler     13,865         56.41
Valdez       10,714         43.59

Marchant/Page precincts

=================================
Bush         27,846         61.28
Kerry        17,591         38.72

Marchant     25,820         59.75
Page         17,397         40.25

Maultsby     25,149         58.26
Garcia       18,021         41.74

Chandler     25,211         57.77
Valdez       18,432         42.23
```

Both Garcia and Valdez clearly did better overall in the Frost precincts, but looking at how they did relative to Kerry in each area, there doesn’t appear to be much difference – indeed, if there is anything significant, it’s in Page’s favor.

```
Differences in Sessions/Frost to Bush/Kerry

Candidate     Votes      Vote Pct  Pct Ratio
============================================
Sessions     -2,111         -6.65       0.89
Frost        +1,333         +6.65       1.16

Maultsby     -1,535         -3.17       0.95
Garcia         +250         +3.17       1.08

Chandler     -1,350         -3.11       0.95
Valdez         +934         +3.11       1.08

Differences in Marchant/Page to Bush/Kerry

Candidate     Votes      Vote Pct  Pct Ratio
============================================
Marchant     -2,026         -1.53       0.98
Page           -194         +1.53       1.04

Maultsby     -2,697         -3.02       0.95
Garcia         +430         +3.02       1.08

Chandler     -2,635         -3.51       0.94
Valdez       +1,035         +3.51       1.09
```

“Pct ratio” is the ratio of the given candidate’s vote percentage to that of the corresponding Presidential candidate for those precincts. Another way of putting this is that Frost did 16% better than Kerry, while Garcia and Valdez each did 8% better in his districts; Page did 4% better than Kerry while Garcia was again 8% better and Valdez 9% better in Page’s districts.

From this, it would seem fair to conclude that on a performance basis, it didn’t matter to Garcia and Valdez if they were in Page’s precincts or Frost’s – they each did about as well relative to the national ticket in each. Therefore, if there was any Frost effect at all, it would have to come from turnout alone.

I didn’t know what I was going to find going in to this. I do not consider this to be fully conclusive. For one thing, I’ve not looked at all of Dallas County; in particular, I’ve not looked at any of the other Congressional races there, including the precincts in which Eddie Bernice Johnson ran unopposed. More importantly, we only looked at some turf that was pretty hostile overall to Democrats; we’ll need to see how things shake out in the more Democratic areas in these districts. I also don’t have the relative turnout numbers at hand, so I can’t say if there was a real benefit from an absolute vote total perspective in Frost’s district. At the very least, however, this should cast doubt on the notion that Frost’s tide lifted all boats. There’s still more work to be done, but it doesn’t look good at this point.

The full spreadsheet is available here if anyone wants to check my math.

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1. Jim Dallas says:

Kuff —

Has there been any talk about Morris Meyer running again? Given the spread was about five points (I thought it was much bigger, actually) and that 2006 is likely to be a bad year for the GOP (Bush isn’t on the ballot, etc.), a candidate like Meyer who already has name recognition may be able to win.

2. Jim D says:

Oops, ignore that last comment. For some reason I confused these numbers with the district wide totals (which went 2 to 1 for Barton).

3. ttyler5 says:

Charles, that’s a good approach.

A couple of fine-tuning suggestions:

— Your figures are at least indicating that Garcia and Valdez may have got a nice little bump in their percentages over Kerry from Hispanic voters. This may have nothing to do with Frost (unless of course these campaigns were directly cross-marketing to Hispanics), so you might want to investigate this area of the campaigning and voting pattern.

— Also, this is the famous campaign where Frost ran as Chet Edwards. Have you checked out to what extent there was a disconnect between Frost’s message and the down-ballot guys? Did they all try the Chet Edwards approach to some extent, or were they off message with Frost?

4. rwi says:

a) “this is the famous campaign where Frost ran as Chet Edwards.” — I hope that’s not a criticism. Seeing as Edwards was the only redistircted D to survive (not counting Doggett in a primary. His general was a joke.), and Frost outperformed his district’s DPI by like, 10 points, maybe more Democrats need to run like Chet.

b) Kuff — did you look at the turnout in those Frost/Valdez precints in 98, 00, 02 and compare them to 04 turnout? It’s possible that’s where the “Frost effect” made a difference.

5. RWI – No, I did not. I hope to come back at this at a later time, and will try to answer that question then.

6. ttyler5 says:

rwi, no it was not a criticism, I was asking our host if he had checked a factor which could help explain the difference between Frosts’ vote in that election and some of the downballot dems in different areas of the district.

7. Cincinnatus says:

Charles,

I’m also curious as to how turnout looks relative to ’00 and ’02. One other thing, it’d be interesing to see how all three races look besides Bush-Gore and Dewhurst-Sharp results. Are these precincts trending Dem like Dallas county as a whole is? And were Sharp’s numbers closer to Frost’s or Valdez’ in these precincts?

Something else to note about the ‘Frost effect’. There’s an awful lot of Dem activists who cut their teeth, so to speak, working for Frost in Tarrant and Dallas counties. It you wanna take a long-term view of this, you could argue that Frost and co. are partially responsible for turning Dallas county a light shade of blue. Not as responsible as demographics, but still.

-ttyler,

Expound on how Frost ran like/as Chet.

8. ttyler5 says:

Cincinnatus, just caught your post here.

Frost ran to the right, stressed a working relationship with president Bush to the point that Bush had to come to town for a big event and give Sessions a blessing, courted conservative indies and even GOP voters, etc etc. A lot of people think this may have cost Frost the national chair…

9. Frost Effect?

Much debated here at BOR in the past has been the efforts of Martin Frost on other candidates in his losing race against Pete Sessions last fall up in Dallas. Charles Kuffner has done some more analysis on the race…

10. Byron L says:

Charles – I haven’t had a chance to really analyse this very much. I’m not sure exactly what this really measures – except for a very small portion of the potential “Frost effect” since SD9 and CD32 have a relatively small overlap. The analysis by Gary Fitzsimmons is available here (PowerPoint File). Gary looked at the overlaps in all of the CD’s and SD’s in Dallas County and compared the results to previous elections. I’ll try and compare your analysis to Gary’s when I have the chance, but you may want to take a look as well. Gary’s analysis is what I had previously based my conclusions upon.

11. Byron – I agree this is an incomplete analysis, as I said at the end of the post. It’s my intention to do the same metric on the rest of CD32 and see what that tells me – I may very well get a different answer. I’ll take a look at your PPT file at home tonight. Thanks!