26 October, 2009

Political Races 2009

Right now there are three political races in the country that may be a precursor of things to come in 2010: The governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, and the race for the congressional seat in the 23rd District of New York.

The Virginia governor's race will almost certainly see a Democratic defeat. The incumbent governor, Creigh Deeds (D), is currently running about 10 percentage points behind the challenger, Robert McDonnell (R). A traditionally Republican state, Virginia leaned Democrat in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but only barely. Unemployment, economic issues, and general dissatisfaction with the Democrat-controlled government -- not to mention an inept and largely ineffectual Deeds administration -- have fueled McDonnell's rise to the top of the polls. The independents who voted for Obama now appear to be swinging towards McDonnell's way. I'd expect that the race will tighten before the polls on November 3rd, but at this point it is likely to be too little too late. RCP polling data can be found here. Verdict: Likely Republican win.

The New Jersey governor's race is closer, much closer. Incumbent Jon Corzine (D) is facing a stiff challenge by U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie (R), with a third party candidacy by conservative independent Christopher Daggett running in double digits. This race is especially interesting for those of us in Illinois, because like Illinois, New Jersey is a Democratic state that has had several major waves of arrests for political corruption in the last year, all of which involved influential members of the state Democratic party. In many ways, this election is being seen as a referendum on the political corruption in New Jersey, and incumbent Jon Corzine is on the receiving end of that anger. The ONLY thing that is saving Corzine at this point is the fact that the anti-Corzine vote is split between Christie and Daggett, since most polls have shown that were it not for Daggett in the race, Christie would be winning this race handily. More than likely, this race is going to come down to which idea the Daggett voters think is more important: making a principled statement about conservative values, or getting rid of Jon Corzine. Since Daggett and Christie are actually closer in where they stand on the issues than not (unlike, say, the differences between the candidates in the New York 23rd District), its quite possible that when the voting actually starts Daggett's base will instead vote for Christie, and console themselves by opining that at least Christie is "close enough to approximate". Current polling have Corzine and Christie in a stastical dead heat. Verdict: Republican win, but just barely. Watch for allegations of massive voter fraud in this one -- especially since ACORN has been waging an aggressive registration campaign.

New York 23rd District has been getting quite a bit of attention lately. Its the only House of Representatives seat up for grabs this year, being an election to find the replacement for John M. McHugh (R), who resigned to take the position of Secretary of the Army. And it is currently being contested by three candidates: Bill Owens (D), Dede Scozzafava (R), and Douglas Hoffman (NY Conservative Party). What's interesting about this race is that the Republican, Scozzafava, is actually considered the most LIBERAL of the three candidates, being pro-life, pro-green, and a generally pro-taxation voting record -- so much so that the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, has actually been getting traction by campaigning as the more "conservative" candidate for this heavily-conservative district. But added into this race is Doug Hoffman, the NY Conservative Party candidate who is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and anti-taxation. And this has essentially split the Republican voters in the NY-23. Right now Owens is leading, with Scozzafava not too far behind; however, recent polling seems to indicate that, while Owens numbers are relatively constant, Scozzafava's numbers are slipping and Hoffman's numbers are gaining. What's more, some polls indicate that the difference between Scozzafava and Hoffman is now less than six percentage points. People in New York are hopping mad at the taxes in that state, and especially with the administration of Governor Patterson; this may be their first chance to voice that dissatisfaction, and to send a message to both parties that enough is enough. Unfortunately, my gut feeling is that I don't think Hoffman is going to pull it off; he may actually surge enough to take second place, but I think the Democratic machine in upstate New York is just solid enough to benefit from a splitting of the normal Republican vote. Verdict: Democrat win, followed immediately by a very intense Owens (D) vs Hoffman (as R) fight in next year's general election.

I was just looking at the New Jersey Governor's most recent poll numbers on RCP's average. I find it interesting that, of the polls it lists, the ones that show Corzine ahead are all the polls with the smallest samplings. The larger the number of respondents, the stronger Christie's support seems to be. The only exception to this is the Monmouth/Gannett survey, which had 1,004 Likely Voters and lists the race as tied.

Be warned, folks. I'm probably going to be doing a lot of this poll watching and amateurish statistical analysis over the next year, leading up to the 2010 elections.

And yes, feel free to laugh at me while I do so.

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