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If you plot up the presidential results since Reagan came along, you get something interesting: a nice little regression. Using results from 1980-2008 (excluding 1992), you would have predicted that Obama would win in 2012 with about 53 percent of the vote, close to the actual result of about 51 percent, which is pretty surprising considering this method does not take into account any consideration of economics, who the Republican nominee was, or anything else of that nature. Here's the graph:

We should interpret this graph as showing that it has been a little less likely for the Republican to win the presidency in each successive cycle as of late. In 2016, it will be even less likely than it was this year. However, unlikely does not mean impossible, and it would still be consistent with the long-term trend if a Republican wins in 2016.

But how much faith should we put in political trends like this? I went looking for another example to test how well they can predict the future. In this case, it's an increasing Republican trend. I used the trend from the first 20 years of data to predict the election in Year 24, and the results from the first 24 years of data to predict the election in Year 28, and so on. Here's what we get:

The predictions are, for the most part, pretty good—not that great, honestly, but certainly no worse that many of the pundit predictions we saw in 2012.

Until 1932. The trends predict a Republican victory with 60 percent of the vote. Actual Results: The Republican only managed 40 percent of the vote. That's waaaaay down there in the lower right hand corner.

But that's not fair! you might say. These were unusual circumstances! The Great Depression! A popular Democratic governor from a Republican state running for president!

And that's the point. Circumstances change. Parties change. Generic Republican almost never is paired off against Generic Democrat at the national level. Political trends can be interrupted.

Such an interruption would probably be pretty obvious well in advance. Several possibilities would be an extraordinary economic or geopolitical disruption (worse than 2008), a major third party candidate that draws primarily from voters who otherwise would have voted Democratic, a major criminal scandal in the either party, or a major policy shift in either party that alienates a substantial portion of their base. For the interruption to shift votes from Democrats to Republicans permanently, it would have to be accompanied by a major change in the Republican party, namely, the elimination of Republican's openly hostile tone towards so many Americans (is this even possible?).

A few more considerations below.

Another question to consider is when does a trend start? Above, I chose to begin the graph in 1980 with the rise of Reagan. However, another possibility would be to begin the graph in 1968, with Nixon's Southern Strategy, and exclude Clinton and Carter, Democratic governors of Southern states. That would have predicted an Obama win of 52 percent in 2012, and the graph looks like this:

Or maybe the reelection campaigns of Carter and Clinton should have been included, since by that time they were creatures of Washington, D.C. That graph looks like this.

There is no "best" starting point, really. The only thing we can say is no matter how we pick a starting point, we see a trend. So we can feel fairly confident that the trend up until now has been real.

Of course, the next step would be to explain the trend—but that's the easy part. It's one part demographic change, one part Southern Strategy, and one part karma. Younger voters are more ethnically diverse than older voters and older generations are also growing more diverse, meaning the electorate is growing steadily more diverse over time, and more diverse meansmore Democratic given the current attitudes of Republicans.  

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 07:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think this is plainly explained by... (24+ / 0-)

    ...the decline of white voting power.  Hope that doesn't sound inflammatory to say "white voting power," but I mean it purely clinically, as that's what it is.

    Starting in 1980, we've performed in the relatively narrow range of 35%-43% with white voters, per exit polls.  It's bounced around in that range, although we were at 36 and 35 in the disastrous Reagan elections, and if you start after that in 1988, it's an even narrower range of 38-43.

    Meanwhile, nonwhite vote share has more than doubled.

    That really explains it.

    If the exit polls can be treated as right (they have problems but still are at least in the right ballpark for much of their data), then Obama actually did worse with white voters than Dukakis.  But Obama won convincingly while Dukakis lost convincingly.  And that is all about demographic shift, that there are a lot more people of color voting.

    That Obama did what fairly can be called quite poorly with white voters also explains a lot of political journalism all year.  Beltway political journalists are by and large affluent white people.  Their personal social and professional circles are people like themselves.  So what they observe and experience in the electorate is skewed, which in turn affects their reporting.  This is why all year, except for a brief time in late September, they perceived a President who was in dire straits and couldn't possibly perform as well as he did.  It's why they couldn't conceive of him winning Florida and thought him unlikely to sweep so many battlegrounds that he swept.

    It's quite something how we have this revolution in the electorate, hiding in plain sight.  "Hiding" only because those who control our public discourse are blind to it.  But in plain sight because they're everywhere, if we just bother to look.

    44, male, Indian-American, married and proud father of a girl and 2 boys, Democrat, VA-10

    by DCCyclone on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 07:18:36 AM PST

    •  I think that's a big part of it (13+ / 0-)

      The other big demographic shift is the type of white voter who is supporting Democrats.  We've lost white voters in places like West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and northern Alabama -- but picked them up in places like your neck of the woods.

      Pair together these urban/suburban white Democrats with the growth in minority voters, and states like Virgnia, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada are increasingly Democratic.  I'll gladly trade West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas for them.

      •  Orange County (Orlando), FL is a case study (18+ / 0-)

        Basically Orange County went from being solidly red at the federal level until the mid 90's, to purple from the mid 90's-early 00's to fairly solid blue in recent years.

        And Orange County matters more in terms of total votes than it used to.  In 2012 Orange County cast 467k votes compared to just 237k votes in 1992.  The votes cast doubled in 20 years white the county went from R+11% in 1992 to D+19% in 2012.  

        It's more or less a combination of young, highly educated white liberals replacing older more conservative whites and the minority vote proportion soaring.

        2012: Obama 59-40
        2008: Obama 59-41
        2004: Kerry 49.8-49.6
        2000: Gore 50-48
        1996: Dole 45.9-45.7
        1992: Bush Sr. 46-35
        1988: Bush Sr. 68-31
        1984: Reagan 71-29
        1980: Reagan 61-34

        •  You need to find a time machine, Chadman... (14+ / 0-)

          ...and go back to 1984 and walk around Orlando explaining to voters there that in another quarter-century a liberal black guy from Chicago named Barack Hussein Obama will win Orange County in landslides.

          They will promptly lock you up.

          Maybe primarily for claiming you came in time through a time machine.

          But the thing about some Obama guy will get notice, too.

          44, male, Indian-American, married and proud father of a girl and 2 boys, Democrat, VA-10

          by DCCyclone on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 10:48:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're exactly right (9+ / 0-)

            And it's not just Orange County trending Democratic at a breakneck pace.  The I-4 corridor as a whole is quickly moving from swingy to strongly democratic leaning.  

            You want an even more dramatic shift politically look at Osceola County, which borders Orlando to the south.  Here are Presidential results for Osceola.  

            2012 - Obama 62-37
            2008 - Obama 59-40
            2004 - Bush 52-47
            2000 - Bush 55-43
            1996 - Clinton 47-39
            1992 - Bush Sr. 42-33
            1988 - Bush Sr. 68-31
            1984 - Reagan 73-27
            1980 - Reagan 60-36
            1976 - Ford 50-49

            What happened in Osceola County is it went from being predominately white to being 43% Hispanic, 13% Black and only 40% White in a very short span of time.  Dubya was able to score enough Hispanic support in 2000 and 2004 to carry the county as he and the republican party still wasn't seen as anti-immigrant.  But by the 2008 and 2012 elections the GOP turned hard right on immigration and the Latino vote swung heavily behind Obama.  

            All that Latino population growth occurring in the past decade in Orlando and Osceola County was the reason the FL GOP had no choice but to cede a very democratic new congressional district.  That's the 9th district Grayson won easily this year.  It seems to be spilling over into surrounding districts too as we saw Val Demmings very nearly topple Webster in the nearby 10th district.  Demographics may flip that seat at some point this decade.

            •  I grew up in St. Pete (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DCCyclone, MichaelNY

              when it was a Republican stronghold.  Now even the St. Pete area (Pinellas County) is trending Democrat.  It is wonderful to see these changes.  I just wish my island of blue (Tallahassee) would see more blue around us.  It is frustrating to be stuck with a Tea Party Rep (Southerland) for my area.

              "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

              by gulfgal98 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:03:18 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I think 2004 (8+ / 0-)

          is VERY instructive.  2004 can be thought of, and fact should be thought of as a replay of 1976.  In '76 Carter put the New Deal coalition back together in a way that was unlikely to last.  The Reagan coalition was built on a three pillars: social conservatism, right wing economics and fear of the Russians.  The fear of the Russians was about more than Communism, it also tended to create the impression of Democratic weakness.

          The Reagan pillars came apart in 1991, and it is worth noting Bush got less than 40% in '92.  In 2004 Bush was able to partially rebuild the pillars based on the War with Iraq and 911.  But absent a credible threat like the Russians, the coalition was inherently unstable.

          The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

          by fladem on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:02:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  The white block vote issue is one of culture (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jomsc, majcmb1, radarlady

          The voters who are trending to vote with the white block are older voters born and raised in more rural geographic area. In those areas the gentry is mostly all white and works to keep it that way. Their kids, like Paul Ryan in Janesville, know that the culturally right way to vote is conservative in support of the white gentry they belong to. It's been proven that the gentry never knows what issues matter to the non-gentry. That's why people like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul will tell you there is no remaining racism. The segregation laws have been repealed so racism has ended.

          The young, highly educated white liberals were born and raised largely in large metropolitan areas. Public education is much stronger there because it has to be for economic reasons. (Not in the ghettos, though. Those remain red-lined because they are filled with throw-away people.)  The work force demands more social equality, and there is a great deal less deference to any "gentry" class of the type that dominates smaller towns and agricultural areas.

          The problem I see is that those younger voters - of any race and ethnicity - see less importance in voting and in political processes. The conservative Republicans may be eliminating this disinterest in politics by forcing the younger voters to recognize what the politicians they don't vote for can take away from them.

          The US Supreme Court has by its actions and rhetoric has ceased to be legitimate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - over

          by Rick B on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 10:30:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  University of Central Florida (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          is also in Orlando.  And it is huge!  You couple that with the University of South Florida in Tampa, and two of the Florida's three largest universities are located along the I-4 corridor.  Wherever you have a university (particularly a public institution), in most cases, you also have a more enlightened population, even among those not directly associated with the university.

          "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

          by gulfgal98 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:00:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Indeed it is (10+ / 0-)

      More specifically, the conservative religious, rural and suburban white voting power. I think the power of these voters has been artificially inflated for decades, first as they oscillated between Democrats and Republicans in the 60s - 80s, garnering outsized attention, and then as they settled into the Republican side and the Republican power structure adjusted accordingly. Now, of course, they are no longer able to determine presidential election outcomes, which as you allude to appears to seem inconceivable to many pundits.

      But I would speculate that because of the disproportionate amount of attention given to them over the last 40 years, they have become the 'norm' even more so than we might otherwise expect. Beltway creatures have been thinking pretty much only of these voters for their entire professional lives. This would compound the problem of their personal and professional circles that you bring up.

      As far as the range of white voting preferences, I would argue that there was an increasing trend from 1972 to 1988, as white moderates moved to the Democratic party, and since then support has been in a holding pattern as the youngest, newest white voters are just about as Democratic as the white voters they are replacing.

      •  Conservative Powers Mobilized Evangelicals in (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DaNang65, blueoasis, radarlady

        the early 70's or before, flipped them from apolitical to rightwing, and helped them grow. That's probably the main driver.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:14:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And what really motivated Evangelicals (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, Woody

          in the south was mandatory school integration. Anyone who grew up in the south at that time saw "Christian Academies" spring up as soon as the school district was handed a court order.

          Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

          by milkbone on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:54:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Even today (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, milkbone

            My small hometown in Texas has not one but two (2) "Christian academies" today.

            Of course, in the modern way, they are not segregated. Oh, no. They have two or three black guys on their football and basketball teams. You can see them in the pictures on the sports pages and you can see them in the class graduation pictures too. The same few guys, and a few girls, count 'em on your fingers with fingers to spare. And even fewer Hispanic students (well, the Catholic thing may keep them out of the Protestant academies).

            You have to go to the public schools to see real integration, with about 52% Hispanic, 40% Anglo, 8% black.

      •  Holy moley (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radarlady, majcmb1

        DON'T

        GET

        COMPLACENT...

        Keeping a Democratic momentum will require hard work every election season.  Yes, all of what you say about the makeup and trending of the electorate is true.  But things are liable to unexpected change.  Who in the 1970s would have predicted the emergence of the "Reagan Democrat"?  This was the unexpected visitor that stayed long enough to give us not only Reagan but both Bushes.  

        I'm not sixty-two—I'm fifty-twelve!

        by Pragmatus on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:42:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Age is Huge. So Far No Senior Voters Grew Up With (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, blueoasis, Rick B, Nulwee, radarlady

      racial or gender equal rights, no senior voters grew up with the Pill and the sex revolution, no senior voters grew up with the concept that America could wrongly wage war.

      If you're 40 or younger you probably can't appreciate how vastly archaic the 65+ generations --high turnout voters-- are, compared to boomers just a few years younger who at least in theory are on the present side of the generational divide.

      Pre boomer seniors were the big turnout explosion in 2010 that inflicted us with the tea party nationally and especially in so many states.

      When the Korea War generation's aging plummets them out of the electorate, this country's going to see a major change in sentiment about race, gender, sexuality and possibly to some extent religion.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:12:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, but a pretty fair number of them grew (6+ / 0-)

        up with the fight to win those rights, especially if include college years as part of growing up.

        The first Freedom Riders set out in 1961.  College freshmen of the day would be about 70 now.   The Feminine Mystique came out two years after that.

        That stuff was on the news a lot, and that was a time when people watched one of the three networks on TV, so a lot of common vicarious experience.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:01:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm age 70, grew up in segregated Texas (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radarlady, Woody

          Whites were the upper class rural gentry. As a group they did not accept the civil rights movement or the pill. A lot voted for local liquor prohibition then bought illegal booze for their parties. Rural includes small and medium sized towns that have little outside traffic through them.

          The gentry of the smaller towns were a small group and tended to think and look alike. They owned the property and feared loss of that property and of the status it gave them. Civil rights and feminism both threatened that, as did the growing use of recreational drugs other than alcohol. Their evangelical preachers supported the conservative politicians and drummed the "Fight Change" message into them, just as they still do. The evangelicals control the religious messages to the non-churched so that's the the public impression of christianity.

          Those people are not changing. They demand social stability and everything in the media tells them stability is disappearing much faster than Ice in Greenland. Of course the fact that roughly half the people who reach age 85 will be showing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease  (worse odds later) means this group is not going to plague America much longer. The fear of social change is not going to go away for this group, it is just going to be swamped by the personal changes involved in aging.

          [Side note. Alzheimer's research is currently getting only a little over half a $billion per year. Cardiac research and breast cancer both are getting over ten times as much.

          The US Supreme Court has by its actions and rhetoric has ceased to be legitimate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - over

          by Rick B on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 11:01:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Some people never will change. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            And some people don't need to.

            Texas is Texas, but there's a lot more to the country than that.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:56:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I live here - Texas is changing. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Woody

              Texas is like most undeveloped societies. It's politically run by its plutocrats (and by the religious leaders who they buy to act as popular controllers) for their own personal benefit. Oil companies are not like other industrial companies since they are both autocratic and they depend on government control of the population to allow them to extract, transmit and process petroleum products.

              The autocratic nature of Texas is disappearing as the economy of the state becomes based in the five large metropolitan areas. The rural areas are losing political control, which is why they are leaning heavily on the fundamentalist preachers especially in mega-churches and on radio and TV talk shows to spread fear of "Others." The politicians then become demagogues to use that fear and social morality in political ways.

              The conservative long-term losers have had to become more obvious and blatant about exerting political control because that control is slipping away! Gerrymandering and voter suppression are the political expression of a "movement" which knows it is losing. Conservatives can no longer be reasonable because they will always lose now in any reasonable contest.

              When Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963 Dallas was the most conservative city in Texas. Today Dallas county has reelected a lesbian Sheriff and are home to one of the most thriving LGBT communities in America. Houston has a Lesbian Mayor. Austin is famously a super liberal society. Even San Antonio and El Paso went largely Democratic. Of the major Texas cities only Fort Worth/Arlington went Republican and that only barely. (Economically FW/A is tied to West Texas - the most Libertarian radical right geographical area in the U.S. - Oil production and agriculture and desert sand. Rick Perry is from West Texas.)

              Texas is changing towards urban liberalism but the political class is based on rural religious conservatism. The right-wing idiots are digging in to stop everything. That was Karl Rove's great discovery in 1994. And now the conservatives are losing.

              Wealth still dominates Texas politics, but not for much longer. A great many Texans don't vote because of the southern plantation/Hispanic Patrician traditions (why bother to vote when the rich will steal it anyway.) Break that tradition, get out the vote, and the floodgates of democracy will dominate Texas as it has elsewhere.

              With an Obama-level GOTV operation I personally think Texas could go for a Democratic President in 2016, but the Democrats have to invest in it instead of pulling money out of Texas for use elsewhere. this is counter to the wisdom(??) of the inside the beltway Democrats who like generals are always ready to fight the last war.

              The flood is close. Plan on it. Texas will be a Democratic Liberal state within eight years.

              With, of course, pockets of conservative insanity, but California still has Orange County, right?

              [Caveat: I am not a politician nor a political expert. I just live here and read the news. I can smell the conservative fear. There apparent strength is the strength of the cornered rat.

              This is my own opinion.]

              The US Supreme Court has by its actions and rhetoric has ceased to be legitimate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - over

              by Rick B on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:43:14 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Good stuff! (11+ / 0-)

    This is what I've been arguing for a while, and what DCCyclone says above: that there were structural factors that caused the electorate to inherently favor republicans from the '70s to the '90s, but that the structural balance has gradually been shifting in the Democrats' favor, and should continue to do so so long as the partisan coalitions and ideological positioning remain what they are (though who knows how long that might be).

    It would be interesting to compare this to the various "economic fundamentals" prediction rubrics. I have to think Obama's 4-point win was an overperformance given the economic fundamentals, and he overperformed due to those demographic factors you point to at the end.

    •  I'm wondering about the economic fundamentals (10+ / 0-)

      Eventually, we will get to a point - maybe in 8-12 years - where the 'economic fundamentals' will conflict terribly with the demographic trends. Beltway pundits will be very confused, I'm afraid.

      As far as how long the partisan coalitions remain stable, I think it's interesting how stable they have remained through the 2008 economic crisis. But we don't have a fragile Democratic coalition now, like previous Democratic coalitions have been. Despite what conventional wisdom says, minority voters overwhelmingly favor Democratic policy positions, and the hostility of Republicans is perhaps just an extra motivating boost that is helping to activate minority voters.

    •  The economic fundementals (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, Nulwee, MichaelNY, radarlady

      really pointed to a close race.  The model I cited in 2008 at Openleft, the time for a change model developed Abramowitz at Emory, predicted a close race (It is based on GDP growth).  It is worth noting that some of the objective numbers, GDP and unemployment, improved during the third quarter, and on election day more thought the economy was improving than not (this was very different than the numbers in the '80 exit poll).

      If you go back and look at Obama's job approval numbers, it appears the turn in this election happened between November of 2011 and March of 2012.  I ran correlations at the time, and it looked to me like the job growth numbers (over 200K for three months)  meant Obama went from low to mid-40's to a range between 46 and 48.  His approval numbers really never moved much from March on (the first debate did not effect O's availability numbers).

      I am really not sure Obama outperformed at all.

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:09:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It should not have been a close race when you (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, MichaelNY, radarlady

        consider the horrible unemployment problem (as distinct from unemployment numbers), housing mess, etc.

        But -- cheez! Could the Republicans have made it any harder to support them?  Romney was a disaster.  The President should send him a very nice gift basket this Christmas.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:03:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  He did give him a free lunch (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dinotrac

          on very nice White House china...

          But, yes, you're right: the GOP "wait your turn" system of nominees isn't doing them any favors. Mittens had a better shot than McCain in 2008 against the Democrats, at least until the economy crashed. This time around, he just served as a walking reminder of how things got so bad in the first place. A new face would have allowed the voter amnesia which is the only way the GOP wins anymore to kick in.

          Oh, well, better for us it didn't,

          Radaraldy

          •  None of the other people running (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radarlady

            with the exception of Huntsman were nearly as good as Romney, and all would have lost by a wider margin - again, except for Huntsman, who never had a chance to win a Republican primary.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:18:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not a lot of charisma going on in GOP land, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY, radarlady

              is there?

              2012 was a painful election to watch.
              I kept seeing John Kerry and all his awkward moments in 2004.  Worse, Al Gore in 2000.  

              No wonder they are looking hopefully to the likes of Christie and Rubio.  

              LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

              by dinotrac on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:00:30 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  It occurs to me (9+ / 0-)

    that this might point to a better way of thinking about realignments and party systems: party systems are defined not by stability but by a certain trend.

    For instance, the 1896-1928 party system that favored republicans was not a period of stable republican dominance but one of increasing republican strength.

    Then that period came to a clanging halt in 1932. And then you have the New Deal party system, but perhaps this was actually a period of declining Democratic strength from the Depression era all the way until the 1980s, with Democratic strength falling below the midpoint around 1968.

    And since then there's been another reversal, with a shadow of growing Democratic strength emerging in the North in the 1980s (see Dukakis' map as a sort of adumbrated version of the electoral maps we've been seeing since Clinton).

    If this is right, and the prior two party systems are any guide, then this increasing Democratic strength could last for 50 years, all-told - meaning it could continue until 2040 or so.

    Of course, life intervenes...

    •  I think so too (6+ / 0-)

      I have refrained from commenting on the 'party system' classifications, because I feel like I'm missing something about how they are defined. But it seems to me they are defined based on which party has the power when, not so much the underlying why and how. I think the trends are just as important, too. And my next post will give you more data to ponder in that respect. (Yes, there is another lovely regression of decreasing Democratic party strength from 1932 until 1968.)

  •  And if Hillary (or Biden) is the Democratic cand. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    in 2016 Pa. could well continue its upward trend.

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

    by TofG on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 10:30:06 AM PST

  •  Nice (4+ / 0-)

    I understand about 92.  I think you could include it by slightly modifying your variable to "share of the 2 party vote".  it was Clinton 43 Bush 37, which translates to Clinton 43/80 = 53.75.  To be perfectly fair, you'd have to do this for the other years, too, which would slightly increase every majority.

    This would make 92 an outlier, perhaps because Perot took more of Bush's vote than Clinton's.

    •  Two-party vote (7+ / 0-)

      I did not use share of the two-party vote because it yields ridiculous results for some elections when there is a third party that is almost entirely drawing from one of the two major parties alone, such as in 1968 and 1948. So I just made life simple and removed all elections with third parties >10%.  But about 92, yeah, it would be an outlier in the first graph, most likely explained by the fact that Clinton was a Southern governors, in my opinion.

  •  Remember how Dems HAD to win evangelicals? (14+ / 0-)

    After Bush's slim 2004 victory the entire media and many Democrats were freaking out and claiming we had to tack to the right on social issues to cater to the all powerful white evangelical vote to win future elections.  Funny how that narrative died following the 2008 and 2012 elections.  The evangelical vote was always badly overblown.  It's finally dawning on the pundits that the largest growing classification of voters when it comes to religion are those who claim no religion, like myself.  And that segment of voters is increasingly alienated by the republican party's freakish social views.  Now it's the right wing on the defensive about demographic trends.

  •  I wonder if it isn't better to think about this (7+ / 0-)

    as a oscillator. One party gets momentum and gradually gains more and more power. The other party gets marginalized.

    Eventually something big and bad happens, they get blamed (since they were running things) and it reverses.

    Alternatively, the dominant party becomes ossitied and can't adapt, since doing so would cut into their coalition of dominance. The other party has nothing to lose so they are willing to try something different (New Deal, Southern strategy).

    I do think that there is a long term secular trend towards more liberal positions that is independent of the horse race aspects.

    •  That sums up 2010 (5+ / 0-)

      I still think 2010 was just a blip on the radar.  The economy was bad and Dems just happened to be in charge, taking the blame.  That election was a disaster but far too much was read into it.

      •  Or 1980. (9+ / 0-)

        Everything went to hell at once. Carter and the Democrats got the blame even though they had nothing to do with most of it.

      •  MASSIVE Core Philosophy Democratic Malpractice. (6+ / 0-)

        2010 was a crime against civilization, driven by a fundamentalist belief in a fantasy society and government.

        There were voices here screaming about the looming disaster 18 months before it happened, to no avail because of those fundamentalist beliefs.

        2010 did not have to happen.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:19:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's the problem with voters (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          If the economy is bad they seem to just blame whichever party holds power without really considering that the alternative could be MUCH worse.  Heading into the 2010 elections republican party favorables were crap.  They were just less crappy than democrats were polling at.

        •  2010 was a reaction (0+ / 0-)

          to a lack of Progressive follow-through by Obama.  His efforts to "appease" the right-wing, in spite of a Dem majority, alienated the legions of "hopeful" voters who supported his election in 2008.  
          His failure to implement the Public Option especially disappointed many of those who originally voted for him.  Combined with the spectre of Socialism that was drummed loudly by the right media (Faux News) and the latent racism in the upper crust who became Tea Party supporters created the election results of 2010.

      •  Democrats were deeply complicit in their own (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, MichaelNY, jomsc, majcmb1, pademocrat

        defeat.

        While unemployment was going through the roof and the foreclosure mess was exploding, the Democrats in DC were busy with other, more important things.

        And...if that wasn't bad enough, they capped it off with a complete failure to do anything about the surge in middle-class taxes due at the beginning of 2011.  It's little wonder they got slapped about so badly.

        Silver lining, though: A lot of that 2010 Republican class were the type to make people re-evaluate Democrats and decide they weren't so bad.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:10:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think that's a very good idea (3+ / 0-)

      Especially when you view a broader sweep of history from the founding of the country. It's also interesting in that politics has always seemed to be a very tribal affair - us vs them, 'othering' of the opposing party, etc - yet every so often a huge chunk of one party's voters jumps to the other 'tribe' because of an extreme event. There seems to be a tension between tribal cohesion and reality, and eventually reality trumps tribal feelings. Just a thought.

  •  I really can't tell ... (4+ / 0-)

    ... if you're making an argument for trends, or making fun of arguments for trends. Maybe both? ;)

    Because clearly you know that using just the numbers does not tell us that much; and we know that we are going to get a pretty good straight line for numbers in a two-party system in which it is an aberration for either party to get less than about 45 percent of the two-party total vote.

    It wasn't that long ago that Republican were projecting that they would have a "permanent" majority. Let's not make similar mistakes.

    If the economy continues to improve through this cycle, Democrats will be in good shape for 2016. Cliche, but true. And probably more meaningful than trying to project a popular vote total based on past results.

    •  Both. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      Trends can only be moderately useful for predicting the future, because we are generally looking for a more certain prediction than trends can provide us with. And we have to understand that political trends, at some point, will change, and keep our eyes out for that to occur.

      However, it does appear that trends can be useful when studying the past.

      •  Agreed ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, MichaelNY

        ... and I can tell you that I would have been a lot more successful as a magazine and newspaper freelance writer, over the years, if I had been willing to claim "trendiness" for more of my story proposals. Magazine editors yearn for trends. You can probably tell that, just by reading magazines.

        But you probably don't because one verifiable trend is that fewer and fewer people are reading magazines and newspapers. ;)

  •  And don't forget Motor Voter. (13+ / 0-)

    As a grassroots Republican insider at the time, I can assure you that the Republicans knew full well that making voter registration quick, easy, and accessible would spell the doom of their electoral prospects, and they fought against it tooth and nail.  They knew full well twenty years ago that if voter demographics were ever to approach the actual population demographics, they would be doomed.  That doom is finally coming to pass.  Much of the weeping and gnashing of teeth you hear is because they KNOW very well where this comes from and where this goes.  They have been fearing, if not expecting it, for a generation.

  •  I'm not understanding what your model is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee

    I have a statistics background.  What exactly are you regressing?

    [I]t is totally not true that Mitt Romney strapped Paul Ryan to the top of a car and drove him to Canada. Stop spreading rumors! -- Gail Collins

    by mbayrob on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 06:11:22 PM PST

  •  My short answer is no (6+ / 0-)

    In the documentary the "Fog of War" Robert McNamara (himself a numbers guy) says the Fog of War is the product of the fact that War is so complicated it is beyond the mind of any single person to comprehend it in all of its complexity.

    I believe there is something call the Fog of Politics, and it is a product of the fact the the vote for President is the product of so many variables and happens so infrequently that it is really not possible at the end of the day to construct a lasting model.

    One thing that is missing in the analysis is the effect competition has on ideology.  The graphs above assume that the party's ideology is constant.  This is surely not true.  Nixon was arguably to the left of Clinton on economic matters.  Having been involved in politics since 1980 I can say one thing I have learned for sure is that politicians are in for the glittering prize.  They will adjust their position to win.

    So a lasting model needs a baseline, and to be truly meaningful that baseline has to be based on ideology and not party.  This in itself may not be possible, because ideology itself is a moving target.    But any fair reading of 2012 must begin with the fact that the Republican candidate held views to the right of any GOP candidate since Reagan.  Though he himself may have been a moderate, the fact is that he touched the third rail on entitlements in a way that Reagan never did.

    So how does that fit into the model?  Is the fact that a right wing candidate came reasonably close to winning a sign of liberal ascendency, or a sign that the Reagan re-alignment never left? Does it destroy the idea that 1980 was such a departure if at the end of the day the Welfare State was left intact?  Remember - Obama has never suggested repealing the Bush tax cuts that Democrats opposed during the 2000 elections.

    My own view is that the trend is unreliable because our understanding of economics is so poor.  The bottom line is we really don't know how to create middle class jobs in an era defined by globalization and increasing technical automation in enough quantity.  This may have several impacts - but to me it suggests political volatility.  I do not believe, for example, that Democrats will win an election in 2016 with the economy as it exists today.  

    I seem to disagree with your posts  - which is odd because I think you are among the best  writers on politics there are.  But the world is full of models that draw lines from the past into the future and confidently predict what will happen.  These models most often wind up in the dust bin of history.

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 07:56:20 PM PST

    •  so many variables (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, MichaelNY, fladem

      would reagan have won if he had lacked what many saw as personal charm? would romney have lost if he could smile and crack quicks the way reagan did, or wasn't such an obvious jerk? would reagan have won if we'd had the internet and so many diffuse and diverse sources of media, rather than the concentrated and coddling media we had?

      by every traditional measure, obama should have been very vulnerable this year, because of the economy. but there is no reason to think the republicans in 2016 will nominate anyone more moderate than romney, although there is a chance they'll nominate someone with some personal charm, someone the media will enable.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:42:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I mostly agree with your rhetorical questions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Laurence Lewis

        But on this one:

        would reagan have won if we'd had the internet and so many diffuse and diverse sources of media, rather than the concentrated and coddling media we had?
        I would say Yes, absolutely. The problem with Reagan is not simply that he charmed the media into giving him friendly coverage. It's that he charmed almost everyone, including his opponents, and other people who were doing worse economically under his presidency but felt pride that it was "Morning in America," etc.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 01:08:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  i disagree, but it would have been interesting (0+ / 0-)

          it was a close race through much of the year, and i do think the internet and alternate media would have undermined his ability to cast himself as a reasonable moderate.

          The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

          by Laurence Lewis on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 01:51:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're talking about 1980 (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fladem

            I was talking about 1984. In 1980, the problem was that the economy was scary and the situation in Iran was bungled by not closing the Embassy in time. No way could Carter have won. No way at all.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 03:01:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  keep in mind (0+ / 0-)

              that carter got a huge bump out of his convention, and was within a few points by mid-august. despite his policy and political errors, and despite a lousy economy that was actually only partially his fault, and despite a media that already were fawning over reagan. an alternate media defending carter and exposing reagan could have made the difference.

              The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

              by Laurence Lewis on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 03:21:51 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I totally disagree (0+ / 0-)

                Moreover, I cannot imagine any possibility of the media not covering the hostage crisis as a sensational story - it was sensational, and that sells newspapers and TV advertising.

                And of course the Federal Reserve - that is, the private megabanks, functioning in quasi-governmental capacity - has much more effect on the economy than the president does, but the president always is held responsible for the economy. Actually, this year was somewhat of an exception because a majority of the electorate showed the remarkable maturity to understand that GW Bush is still to blame for the near-collapse of the economy in 2008.

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:20:45 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  the fed was brutal, for carter (0+ / 0-)

                  and part of his problem was that he played the hostage situation for political advantage against kennedy, which handd the issue to reagan. but it wasn't until summer that reagan surged ahead, and then carter came back and tightened it. carter needed someone to make the case that reagan was a new brand of extreme, but there was no one to make it.

                  The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                  by Laurence Lewis on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:01:21 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It really didn't matter (0+ / 0-)

                    Voters were willing to take a chance on extremism to defeat Carter.

                    And I think you're wrong that it was that close. Was more than one pollster showing a close race?

                    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                    by MichaelNY on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:39:33 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  the consensus (0+ / 0-)

                      i believe gallup, as usual, was the outlier, with carter temporarily even taking back the lead, but they all had it within a few points in mid-august. voters were not gambling on extremism, reagan was being cast as a safe form of conservative.

                      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                      by Laurence Lewis on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 11:01:26 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

            •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              1980 was close for a while only because Reagan was such a gaffe machine.  He really was a terrible candidate for much of that election.  It was only at the end when the Iranians screwed Carter one last time and Reagan didn't appear a complete moron in the debate that the race broke.

              The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

              by fladem on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:32:13 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Reagan benefitted from a singular event (0+ / 0-)

          which was the birth of the PC age, which led to sweeping advances in technology and the ability of small businesses to exert much greater control over their economies.  It also foreshadowed the Tech Boom and the growth of the Internet.  It was probably the singular event responsible for our economic boom from 1980 (when the prime rate was 21.5%) to the end of that decade.

          That economic boom, combined with the leadership of the Pope and the social upheaval in Poland were far more effective instruments leading to the downfall of Communism than anything Reagan did personally or politically.

          •  It can be argued that the US military spending (0+ / 0-)

            spree and the stationing of that new generation of missiles in Europe played an important part in the emergence of Gorbachev and his conclusion that the USSR couldn't compete with that and had to therefore make concessions to try to maintain its existence.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:30:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I always enjoy your comments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mad Season, MichaelNY

      Especially when you disagree, because it makes me think.

      And this time, I agree with everything in your comment.  

      The motivation behind this post was to write something I could link to in the future to say 'Watch out! Political models can easily fail if circumstances change! And circumstances always change.'  If I may, I would like to adopt your term Fog of Politics, too. I love it.

      I think there is use in watching the current trend nonetheless, while keeping an eye out for the changing variables you mention that would render the model useless.

      •  Modelers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        also mislead about the own results.  Nate Silver says he went 50-50.  But his own model did not predict a 332 EV total for Obama - IIRC it was 316.

        Somehow everyone forgets this, and I haven't seen him remind them of this fact.  

        The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

        by fladem on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:36:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          And, he predicted a 49.8-49.8 tie for Florida. Somehow that is always translated into 'Nate predicted Obama would win in Florida, and was right.' There is a Myth of Nate that seems to have overtaken the quality of his model. But, overall, it is a healthy counterbalance to the Myth of the DC Pundit. The more attention people pay to Nate and his work, the better, because it takes away oxygen from beltway blowhards.

          And speaking of admitting errors, you remind me I need to to a post on my House model. The model worked fine, actually, I just blew it with a subjective call of what number to put into it!

  •  John Anderson got 6.6% of the1980 vote too (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dinotrac, blueoasis, MichaelNY, pademocrat

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Lefty Coaster on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:28:57 PM PST

  •  It's always fun to analyze from 8 data points, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave the pro, Nulwee

    especially when you get to pick the start and end points and exclude years because -- well, just because.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 08:54:14 PM PST

    •  My thoughts exactly. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      majcmb1, dinotrac

      Four years is a long time, and so many factors make up a presidential win.  It's nice to see trendlines, but some of it is just paredolia.

      On the other hand, demographics is sometimes destiny, and it's true Republicans have been steadfastly hostile to every group that is rising in numbers and influence.  They've hurt their brand badly, and I think their strong performance in this decade is due in large part to gerrymandering.

      Eventually that will either go away, or it will go our way.  When that happens, the Democratic party will enjoy a decade or two of dominance like the 40s.  It's fun to wonder if the Republicans will even continue to be the opposition party, or if they will rebrand into the Conservative party...  or something.

      Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

      by Boundegar on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 03:16:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They're definitely going to have to figure out (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        who they are.

        More than anything, they've got to stop being stupid. Though many will disagree, there aren't enough stupid people to win elections on a consistent basis, AND -- stupid people are spread all over the spectrum anyway.

        Besides, working too hard to attract the stupid will drive away the not-so-stupid.

        Whether or not the GOP gets its act together or is supplanted by something else, it's hard for me to imagine the Democrats enjoying a long dominance like that of FDR->Truman.

        Politicians are too stupid (not IQ stupid so much as hubris stupid) to stay in the electorate's good graces that long, especially in the age of the internet.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:50:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  See my comment below about auto-correlation. (0+ / 0-)

      The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

      by accumbens on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:04:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  That looks very much like (0+ / 0-)

    an Hubos-Vos regression line and the uncertainty bars.  I have used that technique many times when quantitating levels of chemical warfare agents in analytical samples.  Kudos!

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

    by Translator on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 11:16:10 PM PST

  •  Analysis of variance? (0+ / 0-)

    The new variables this year were voter suppression and Citizens United cash. They had some effect but not what Karl and Co would have liked. They tend to read their own campaign literature rather than facty thingies like the census.

  •  From my two neurons that may still contain some (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dinotrac

    statistical knowledge, wouldn't it be worthwhile, if not more appropriate, to do an auto-correlation analysis on such time series data?

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

    by accumbens on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:00:19 AM PST

    •  Might be fun to try. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, accumbens

      It wouldn't surprise me to find an ongoing trend of

      1. party comes to power
      2. Party wears out its weclome

      Repeat.

      Punctuated, of course, by the sorts of upheavals that history brings.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:04:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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