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This diary was cross posted from RedRacingHorses
This is the third installment of an ongoing series on Connecticut's 5th Congressional district. For part one, see here:
For part two, see here:


The race for Connecticut's 5th Congressional district was one of the most hotly contested open seat Congressional races in the country during the 2012 election season. Republicans and Democrats both elected their strongest possible candidates in their respective primaries, Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire). Millions of dollars were spent on each candidate by outside groups, and both candidates fundraised strongly. On election day, Elizabeth Esty, a one-term defeated former State Representative, defeated Andrew Roraback, a 9-term Senator from the Litchfield Hills, by a margin of 7,461 votes, or 2.62 percent. At the same time, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by a margin of 8.32%. Roraback ran 2.89% ahead of Mitt Romney but needed to run 4.16% ahead and therefore narrowly lost.

What lessons and strategies can we take away from this race? Find out below the fold.


Below is a picture of Andrew Roraback's Senate district. It will come in handy when analyzing election result maps later in this article.


The only part of Liz Esty's old State House seat in this seat is the town of Cheshire.

Election Results

Below is a map of how each of the towns in CT-05 voted for President in 2012. Waterbury and Torrington's being split have been accounted for.

Color Key:
Navy: 65+% Obama
Sky blue: 50-52% Obama
Dodger blue: 52-57 Obama
Blue: 57-63% Obama
Salmon: 50-53% Romney
Red: 53-57% Romney
Crimson: 57-60% Romney
Reddish Brown: 60+% Romney

Below is a results map of Andrew Roraback and Elizabeth Esty's 2012 race by town.

Color Key:
Navy: 63+ Esty
Sky blue: 50-54% Esty
Dodger blue: 54-58 Esty
Blue (only Plainville): 58-63% Esty
Salmon: 50-53% Roraback
Red: 53-57% Roraback
Crimson: 57-60% Roraback
Reddish Brown: 60+% Roraback


Finally, below is a map that shows Andrew Roraback's performance in comparison to Mitt Romney's performance.

Color Key:
Dodger blue: -3+
Blue: -0 through 3
Salmon: 0-5
Red: 5-10
Crimson: 10-15
Reddish Brown: 15+


Electoral Analysis

Andrew Roraback performed excellently in his old Senate district, especially in the northern portions of the Litchfield Hills. Roraback tended to run ~15 points ahead of Mitt Romney in the Northwest Corner's deep blue towns and ran an astounding 18 points ahead of Romney in his Republican hometown of Goshen. Roraback likely nearly reached the GOP ceiling in the Litchfield County porions of the 5th district.

Hartford County's slice of CT-05 worried Connecticut Republicans. Strategists were concened that Roraback would run behind Mitt Romney in the dying industrial city of New Britain, the same city that was likely the downfall of then-GOP Representative Nancy Johnson in 2006. Connecticut Republicans also worried about Roraback's appeal in the wealthy Farmington Valley, containing the affluent towns of Avon, Simsbury, and Farmington. However, considering Esty's profile as a pro-choice, fiscally moderate female seemed perfect for the Farmington Valley. Nevertheless, Roraback ran ahead of Esty in each of the district's towns. However, Roraback only ran ~2 points ahead of Romney in these towns, although it's worth noting that the Farmington Valley swung hard towards Romney from John McCain's dismal 2008 performance, with each town moving about 7 points to the right (signifying a ~5 point PVI shift to the right for the Farmington Valley). Roraback also ran 1.9 points ahead of Romney in New Britain, but New Britain shifted dramatically leftward Presidentially, seeing as Romney underperformed John McCain in New Britain by 1.6 points.

Roraback also put in a strong performance in Fairfield County, although his performance again was not as strong as it needed to be districtwide. Again, Romney ran about ~2 points ahead on average in Brookfield, Sherman, Danbury, and Bethel. Roraback registered a strong performance in New Milford, running about 7 points ahead of Mitt Romney.

While Roraback's performance wasn't on average as strong as he would have needed to win in Hartford and Fairfield Counties, his strong Litchfield County performance was more than enough to make up for this slight underperformance from his baseline. The area of the 5th district that took down Andrew Roraback was the Waterbury area of New Haven County.

In Waterbury proper, which consists of about a tenth of CT-05, Mitt Romney underperformed John McCain by 1.4 points. To make matters worse, Andrew Roraback underperformed Mitt Romney by .7 points. Esty's margin in Waterbury itself was 8,117- 656 more votes than her districtwide margin- meaning that Roraback would have been victorious without Waterbury in the district. Republicans used to be able to perform strongly in traditionally heavily Catholic, working class, and socially conservative Waterbury. Unfortunately, most of those conservative Democrats have either passed away and the ones that haven't or their now adult children have moved to surrounding towns like Wolcott, Middlebury, and Prospect. Hispanics moved in when those culturally conservative Catholics moved out, providing a tough constituency for Roraback to appeal to. Roraback knew he had to make inroads with Hispanics and even ran radio ads on Waterbury radio stations to no avail. Roraback's pro-choice position on abortion and his country club Republican perception did not play well amongst those remaining conservative Democrats in Waterbury, and he did not perform strongly there.

More alarmingly was the heavily conservative town of Wolcott, which is the residence of many of the children of those conservative Democratic Waterbury voters that used to help Waterbury swing for the right Republican. Republicans only hold a slight registration edge over Democrats in Wolcott at 97 voters, with independents being the largest group of Wolcott voters at just under 49.8%. Republicans and Democrats each register in at around 24% off Wolcott's registered population. As a comparison, a slightly less Republican performing town like Goshen, which gave 58% of its vote to Mitt Romney as compared to the 62% Wolcott gave Romney, is 36% Republican and 24% Democratic by registration. Roraback underperformed Romney by 3.3 points in Waterbury. While his two-way vote share in Wolcott was impressive without context at 58.49%, it was a steep underperformance. Wolcott's identity as the occasional landing spot for Waterbury's conservative Democrats and, more frequently, their now-adult Children shone through with Roraback's country club Republican persona not playing well there. Wolcott's weak showing for Roraback can also be partially explained by its proximity to Cheshire, Esty's hometown, where she overperformed Obama by 2.7 points. The city of Meriden, to the east of Cheshire, was one of Roraback's relative bright spots in New Haven County, seeing as he overperformed Mitt Romney there by over a point (although lost Meriden, which trended leftward presidentially, handily). The Waterbury suburb of Middlebury also was disappointing for Roraback, seeing as he underperformed Romney by .6 points there. Roraback slightly overperformed Romney by .4 points in Southbury, but this was again a disappointing underperformance.

Conclusion and 2014

Andrew Roraback being the political favorite son of Litchfield County meant that his fairly strong, but not comparatively as strong, performances in Hartford and Fairfield Counties were enough for him to win. Without the New Haven County portion of CT-05, Roraback would have won by around 2.2 percent. Taking out either Waterbury or New Britain itself would have won the district for Roraback. While Danbury and Waterbury should undisputedly be in the 5th district, there's almost no non-partisan reason for Meriden or New Britain to be in the 5th, seeing as New Britain is a natural fit for the Hartford based 1st district and Meriden should be in the New Haven County based 3rd district. Trading New Britain and Meriden for Bristol, Southington, and the 1st district's rural arm into northern Torrington and surrounding areas, as a court map would have done, would have resulted in soon-to-be forer State Senator Andrew Roraback in being Congressman-elect Andrew Roraback. Simply put, the GOP lost CT-05 on the mapping table.

As for 2014, the GOP is in a decent position to win CT-05. While Elizabeth Esty will have some strength thanks to incumbency, CT-05's Democratic strength is largely based in the cities of the district, which turn out abysmally in midterms. Had urban turnout not have been abnormally high for even a Presidential election year, Roraback likely would have won the 2012 version of CT-05. With depressed urban turnout in 2014, a potential "six year itch" hindering Democratic performance, and a governor deeply unpopular in Northwest Connecticut (and suburban Connecticut in general) on top of the ballot, the GOP could win the 5th district in 2014 with a well funded challenger. Andrew Roraback has hinted that he will run again, and if he can run nearly as strongly as he did in Litchfield County in 2014, which will be a higher percentage of the CT-05 electorate in a midterm year, he can potentially defeat Elizabeth Esty. The other option for the GOP would be running a Wolcott, Waterbury, Cheshire, or Middlebury Republican who could neutralize Esty's home field advantage in the New Haven County portion of the district and who would be a better fit for that part of the district, but that nominee would also need to focus heavily on performing well in the Litchfield Hills. The GOP needs a nominee who can unite all of the winnable factions of the CT-05 electorate, and Andrew Roraback could possibly do that in 2014 when urban turnout is depressed and he can spend more time as the presumptive nominee campaigning in areas he underperformed in.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    Home: North Shore of Illinois, College: Main Line of Pennsylvania (PA-07)

    by IllinoyedR on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:26:17 AM PST

  •  Very good, sharp analysis until the very end. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IllinoyedR, MichaelNY, Alibguy, SLDemocrat

    I just think that it'll be trickier for Republicans to win against an incumbent than in this year's open seat scenario. It's like UT-04.  2012 was their best shot in a while as Matheson was running in a largely different district in a year when the Republican Prez candidate was a Mormon and against a well-hyped candidate.  Esty could easily become very vulnerable if she's a bad freshman, but that's an if.

    Other than that one disagreement, I loved reading this analysis.  I hope you're planning something identical on the super close races of MA-06 and IL-10 (the latter you worked on) to show us what towns put the winner ahead and how and where the Republican overperformed Romney.

    Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

    by KingofSpades on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 11:07:05 AM PST

    •  Tipped and recced, btw. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

      by KingofSpades on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 11:07:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KingofSpades, MichaelNY

      I'm more than willing to write an analysis of MA-06 this week seeing as that, CT-05, and IL-10 (since the old version was my home district) are the non-SEPA districts that interest me the most.
      IL-10 will be far more difficult than making one of these diaries on a New England district since there's no unincorporated land in New England and each town publishes its results separately, but I can map it out by township I suppose and analyze it that way.

      Home: North Shore of Illinois, College: Main Line of Pennsylvania (PA-07)

      by IllinoyedR on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 11:51:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't know, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, redrelic17

      "we would've won, but we had the deck stacked against us" is how I read it, and that's, to me, not a terribly compelling argument.  But I might just be in a sour mood since I'm pretty damn sick for Christmas.

      ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

      by James Allen on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 02:06:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fact of life in the district (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        With four cities, three of which are overwhelmingly Democratic, combining to make up ~40% of the district at 66% Obama in 2008 (and probably slightly more in 2012) combined, you need a nominee that can align the stars to win the seat in a Presidential year and this was an explanation about how Roraback was able to do well enough in three of the four regions but just did not do very well in the Waterbury area.

        Home: North Shore of Illinois, College: Main Line of Pennsylvania (PA-07)

        by IllinoyedR on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 03:06:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Newtown is in this district (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, pistolSO

    Newtown is in this district, (On the map, it is east of Oxford, where route 34 meets route 84, which runs through Danbury.)  I mention this because after the recent tragedy there, if the GOP comes out largely against any kind of reasonable gun control, this will definitely impact the races in this area.  Most people here are fiscally conservative but socially more moderate.

    In addition, an incumbent running for reelection almost always gains points over their initial election numbers, if they work hard and represent the views of the district.  I am sure that Esty will come in between 55% to 60% in her reelection, as outgoing Dem. Rep. Murphy did.  

    •  My mother lives in Newtown. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Lovely place...I can't even think about what happened.

      But it's pretty Republican--looking at the Secretary of State results, it went for Romney 7,451/6,784, giving him about 52% of the vote.  Last time it gave Obama 52% of the two-party vote.  It makes me wonder if former Representative Chris Lyddy would have won re-election in what was basically the Newtown district.  

      He's interesting--a young guy, good C.V., hung on in 2010, and a pretty liberal voting record, although he opposed the minimum wage increase and the National Popular Vote.  I had him all picked out to run against Roraback if it didn't work out this time.

      27, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-10 (formerly PA-02/NY-12, then PA-02/NY-14).

      by Xenocrypt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:29:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, Democrat Lisa Romano (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      came within just 46 votes of holding the seat against Republican Mitch Bolinsky.

      27, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-10 (formerly PA-02/NY-12, then PA-02/NY-14).

      by Xenocrypt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:35:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is an excellent (4+ / 0-)

    and very informative diary.

    A few nitpicks:

    1. You mention 'what a court would have done'. Courts do not draw redistricting maps in Connecticut. Even if the Redistricting Committee cannot agree on a map (as was the case this year), the task of redistricting goes to a special master, who this year was an NYU professor. He drew the least-change map that we have now. Democrats are never going to allow New Britain to be put in Hartford's district. It's just not going to happen.

    2. I disagree that Elizabeth Esty will be particularly vulnerable in 2014. Democratic Representatives in Connecticut have a knack for getting entrenched quickly. In 2008, then-first-term Rep. Chris Murphy received 59% of the vote, and then-first-term Rep. Joe Courtney (my Rep!) got 66%. Jim Himes only received 53% in 2010, but that was better than his performance in 2008, and this year he got 59%.

    You say that cities in Connecticut have abysmal turnout in midterms; this is true, but their turnout is still pretty bad in presidential years as well. Don't forget: in 2008, Himes won only Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford, while in 2010 he won those cities plus Redding, Weston, Westport, and Fairfield (by one vote). In 2012, he won all those towns plus more.

    My personal belief is that in 2014, Esty will receive between 55 and 60 percent of the vote. She will easily win New Haven County like she did this time, and I think she'll win every county except for the one her opponent is from. Since in 2014 Esty will be the incumbent, I don't think that Roraback, if he runs again, will match his margins in Hartford and Fairfield Counties.

    Of course, there is the possibility that Roraback won't be the nominee again. You mention that the Republicans should look for a candidate from Waterbury or its suburbs. The most obvious possibility is St. Sen. Rob Kane (R-Watertown), who represents the suburbs NW, W, and SW of Waterbury. He would do better in those areas, but he is more conservative than Roraback, so he may not do as well in Litchfield or Hartford Counties. The other State Senators in that area don't live in the district (such as Joe Markley (R-Southington)).

    Finally, I'm curious about one thing. Why are you so interested in CT-05 as opposed to any other district?

    (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), new ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

    by ProudNewEnglander on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:04:06 PM PST

    •  A nitpick of my own. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IllinoyedR, KingofSpades, jncca, MichaelNY

      Murphy and Courtney won by beating incumbents, as Himes did.  The difference between being a challenger and an incumbent is generally greater than the difference between being an open seat candidate and an incumbent, and so Esty's performance might not improve by the same magnitude that Murphy's, Courtney's, and Himes' performances improved after their initial elections.  You're right that Esty is likely to improve, but it is a different case.

      27, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-10 (formerly PA-02/NY-12, then PA-02/NY-14).

      by Xenocrypt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:07:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nathan Persily (5+ / 0-)

      A second nitpick, but the court-appointed special master was Nathan Persily at Columbia (not NYU), who was also appointed by the E.D.N.Y. to draw the New York congressional map.

      Editor, Daily Kos Elections. IL-07.

      by jeffmd on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:05:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Persily (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        All he did was tweak the 2001 gerrymander. The CT GOP really spiked itself by allowing for Nancy Johnson's seat to pick up some really rough territory back in 2001 that was trending against us hard. I meant a court map like the one we got in NY.

        Home: North Shore of Illinois, College: Main Line of Pennsylvania (PA-07)

        by IllinoyedR on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 06:21:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  well, if CT had lost two districts (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KingofSpades, James Allen, MichaelNY

          and had major population shifts, that might make sense.

          you should really edit the text of the diary to make it clear. CT was a court map, just like Texas was. there's a difference between "a court map" and "a court map that I like" or "a court map that draws everything from scratch" or "a court map that tries to draw compact blobs."

          Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

          by sapelcovits on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 06:38:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry about that (0+ / 0-)

        It's easy to mix up all the universities in NYC.

        (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), new ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

        by ProudNewEnglander on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 09:48:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Is Dan Malloy still (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KingofSpades, MichaelNY

    "deeply unpopular in suburban Connecticut"?  His numbers had picked up in PPP's last poll, at least.

    It's generally interesting how Connecticut Republicans seem to have a lock on local Senate seats that are swingy at the national level.  That Danbury-based seat, for example.

    27, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-10 (formerly PA-02/NY-12, then PA-02/NY-14).

    by Xenocrypt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:11:01 PM PST

  •  Also, I've talked about this before. (6+ / 0-)

    Litchfield county only has about 190,000 people.  With CT-03 and CT-04 naturally taking up most of New Haven and Fairfield Counties, it's quite inevitable, as far as I can imagine, that CT-05 will have to go into a good portion of Hartford County.  Waterbury, Bethel, Newtown, and Danbury have about 240,000 people between them.  So that's only 430,000, and you don't get much more from the other small towns around Danbury and Waterbury, so you need nearly 300,000 more people.

    27, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-10 (formerly PA-02/NY-12, then PA-02/NY-14).

    by Xenocrypt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:17:52 PM PST

  •  Roxbury Ct (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dem chair told me election night he expected Andrew to win, we were surprised.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 07:21:19 PM PST

    •  Dem Chair of Roxbury? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, Roger Fox

      And yeah, this race was hard to read.  After the Chris Donovan burn-out (one jailed employee was one thing, but more and more were swept up) and Rohraback's plurality win in the primary threw this up in the air.  

      Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

      by KingofSpades on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 07:34:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hugh Rawson, dem chair of Roxbury (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KingofSpades, MichaelNY, nycyoungin

        All us Roxbury Dems got together for a little results watching, a big cheer went up when Chris beat Linda with real solid numbers.

        I just moved back to CT after 35 years away, and had no local knowledge.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 07:05:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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