Aug 26 2010

Just The Tip Of The November Tsunami

Published by at 8:16 am under 2010 Elections,All General Discussions

Update: ABC News even notes the fact this year’s polls are not proving to be accurate. Which means the only thing one can trust is the trend – which has been heading towards rout of Dems come November – end update

What if this year’s political tsunami was also like an iceberg, where just the tip of the wave was visible right now? In fact, all tsunami waves look like any other wave in the deep ocean. It is not until they reach the shore that the shallowing water forces the wave up to its true height. But specialized sensors can detect these waves even out to sea because they do have features (like wavelength) which set them apart.

As we approach the November elections, we may discover that the primaries we have seen to date are just the tip of the tsunami, which is now hidden from pollsters because of two very basic and acceptable reasons:

  • The angriest element of the electorate have tuned out until November. And part of that tuning out is boycotting pollsters. And what if these were mostly independent voters fed up with both parties as well as the entire political process who will be voting come hell or high water? How would that effect polling models?
  • The resistance of voter turnout models to massively changing views. Turnout models assume a state’s electorate will behave reasonably close to the way it has behaved in previous, similar election cycles. That is how they turn a 600 person sample into a representation of millions of diverse and independent people. The problem is, if you are off by even a fraction in the turn out model, you will be off by huge amounts when voting day comes around. And if the voters change their mood dramatically, the models will be tuned to the past, not the present.

So here we have two factors that could be hiding a wave of discontent in the poll numbers. In addition, we have two primary elections this week which behaved as if these conditions actually do exist. Though some put it down to the quirks of small voter turnout in primaries which exaggerate forces that will be muted and swamped in the fall when the ‘normal’ voters arrive. That also may not hold water.

In Alaska, Lisa Murkowski’s cruise to renomination for her senate seat looked all but certain. No poll even hinted at an upset. Yet here we are awaiting the counting of absentee ballots to see if she survived. Even if she does go on to survive, what is interesting is the anti-incumbent, anti-big government wave finally appeared out of nowhere with incredible force.

Same thing in FL in the GOP primary. And in fact, FL also was a good method to see the trend where the Democrats are still voting for big government, political elites (or incumbents) while masses of people are voting GOP and voting out the professional pol (just look at the governor primary results).

Sean Trende over at RCP did the analysis I was going to attempt (and he did much better than I would have) that discusses this concept of a hidden wave. He too, like me, looks at the governor races in 2009 and the MA senate special election in January 2010 as indicators of a massive wave heading towards to the Democrat Party – the party of intrusive big government. His approach is very simple and defendable. He tries to ascertain the general mood of the country based on the VA, NJ and MA elections, to see if a common shift in the turn out models has already occured. He finds one:

As I explained in December 2009:

In Virginia, the Republicans’ share of the electorate increased by 12% from 2008 to 2009; in New Jersey it was 10%. In Virginia, Democrats were at about 84% of their 2009 level; in New Jersey it was 93%.

In both states, the Democrats’ share of the Republican vote dropped by about 50% (50% in Virginia, 56% in New Jersey), and their share of the Independent vote dropped about 66%. The Democrats’ share of the Democratic vote was pretty stable; up 1% in Virginia and up 2% in New Jersey.

As we entered December of 2009, Republicans began whispering about a potential upset in Massachusetts. In the absence of much polling, I asked what would happen if the Massachusetts electorate were to shift in the same way that the Virginia and New Jersey electorates did. The results showed a 51.1%-48.9% Coakley win – a much closer race than almost any analyst was suggesting would be possible at the time.

The fact that Scott Brown performed only a few points better than this model suggested implies that the Massachusetts electorate did in fact move in much the same way as the New Jersey and Virginia electorates did (unfortunately we don’t have exit polls to verify this conclusion directly).

What he then did is apply this same general mood adjustment to all the pending senate races, based on previous election results!

The composition of the electorate was altered in each state so that the electorates would be 11 percent more Republican, 5 percent more Independent and 11 percent less Democratic than they were in the 2008 presidential race.

This is important to note in his methodology. He simply models a universal shift in attitude from 2008 to 2010 and determines what would be the outcome of the Senate races. Interestingly, most of the races are now trending towards his predicted outcomes. A few are not, because of the strength or weakness of individual candidates (which actually proves his theory is right). In AR he nailed Blanche Lincoln’s sad situation, and in IL his model shows the two equally flawed candidates would be in a tight race. Trende’s model shows the GOP picking up 12 seats (without accounting for quirks of individual races).

That means the Democrats are NOT starting with +10 (as everyone assumes), but instead are starting at -12. that means they will need to win back 3 seats to keep the majority if the wave is out there and ‘baked in the cake’ so to speak.

Back in late 2009 and early 2010, anyone who claimed WI, CA, WA, DE, PA and others states would be within reach of the GOP would have been deemed nuts. But not now, even left leaning pollsters are starting to sense the swell rising. Take the respected Nate Silver:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. The Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate, according to the model, which would cost them control of the chamber unless Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is running for the Senate as an independent, both wins his race and decides to caucus with them.

His prediction now is the Dems lose 6-7 seats. He still has CA, WA, IL and WI going Democrat (as do most pollsters). I like his approach because he is looking historically at how strong poll leads at this stage before an election hold until the election:

The forecasts are based on a program designed to evaluate current polling and demographic data, and to compare these present-day conditions to outcomes in United States Senate races over the past six election cycles.

This approach can be more accurate because it simply determines how solid the November picture right now, based on previous cycles. However, it is also weak because it is based on previous cycles, and assumes poll accuracies this year are as good as previous cycles. That is a questionable assumption (as Sean Trende indicates). What if the turn out models in place this year are still too heavily weighted towards past cycles (instead of the tuning process they will go through in the coming weeks, weighting new poll data to adjust the turn out models to current conditions)?

What if that 5% of the electorate that is so angry and so energized it lifted up the Tea Party movement is ignoring pollster calls? What if there is a largely center-right, libertarian, Tea Party movement not completely visible to the pollsters out there?

If both Trende and Silver are basically correct, then Silver’s model is going to shift right and consume states like IL, CA and WA. It may even take out IL and CT. We don’t know. What we do know is no one saw Alaska coming, and only one pollster detected the Scott win over McCullum in FL – for very interesting reasons:

We used a loose screen in determining who to call that may have picked up more non-typical primary voters who went for Scott. Instead of calling a list of people who had a history of voting in past primary elections, as we usually do, we just called folks who had a history of voting in general elections and then screened on voting intent for the primary from there. If the folks who voted yesterday had been exactly the same as the folks who voted in the 2006 primary I imagine McCollum would have won. That’s because he was the Republican establishment choice and the kinds of folks who vote in every primary likely went to him. But there were hundreds of thousands more people voting yesterday than in 2006 and my sense is the newbies went strongly for Scott.

We picked up a Republican electorate that was exceedingly conservative. In 2008 exit polls showed 61% of Presidential primary voters were conservatives. Our poll over the weekend suggested 72% of primary voters this year identified as conservatives. Given that Scott was winning conservatives and McCollum was winning everyone else, identifying that conservative shift in the Republican electorate probably helped contribute to our poll’s accuracy.

The one pollster that basically nailed Scott’s wave in FL is the one who shifted their turnout model from the 2006 and 2008 parameters to one more conservative and with higher energy on the anti-incumbent side. Coincidence?

I think not.

Especially since now upwards of 100 house seats are in play and the tsunami may have already consumed the Democrat House (not to mention the governor mansions). The tide, she is still arising!

34 responses so far

34 Responses to “Just The Tip Of The November Tsunami”

  1. dbostan says:

    I live in Central Valley and work in Silicon Valley.
    I have never seen so much display of anti-demshevik sentiments like now.
    there are signs along the interstate 5 in Central valley, calling for the ouster of Boxer, Pelosi and every single demshevik.
    Even in the Bay area I have seen signs asking for the “bums to thrown out”.
    As California is sooo broken, this is not an usual year.
    Even Obama signs are pretty much gone from bumpers, if you can believe it…
    Expect a wave we have not seen in our life time this November, barred some “surprise” which the demsheviks are perfectly capable of…

  2. dbostan says:

    Correction: “bums to be thrown out”

  3. […] heat with Fiorina in Rasmussen poll – 08/26/2010 Ma’amentum. more… Just The Tip Of The November Tsunami – 08/26/2010 What if this year’s political tsunami was also like an […]

  4. archtop says:

    # dbostanon 26 Aug 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Correction: “bums to be thrown out”

    Correction2: “Throw them out on their bums…” :^)

  5. MarkN says:


    Doheny and Hoffman are facing off in the Republican Primary for NY-23.


    My brother lives in Visalia and I haven’t seen anything like the vitriol against the Democrats like this year. The lack of water is a HUGE issue. The Greens have gone one little fish too far. The only question I have is if there are enough people in the Central Valley to make a difference and will they turn out to throw the bums out?

  6. dbostan says:

    Aside from the local congressmen, who might lose their jobs, around 40% of the people are Hispanics. They have a lot of relatives all over CA, so the demsheviks pissed off one of their most cherished constituencies.
    There is a good chance both Whitman and Carly will win in November.
    if Carly wins, I think, the senate is going repubic…

  7. Whippet1 says:

    I see AJ is back on the Dino/Rino/Independents are gonna win bandwagon. Coming from someone who actually considered voting for Obama…that means you AJ, I find it interesting that the very voting blocks who got us into this current mess in the first place are the very ones you are cheering to basically “bring it on” again in November.

    You preach every day, correctly, about the mess Obama has gotten this country into. What exactly is it that you don’t “get” about the very independents that, lacking core principles, jump from Dem to Republican depending on which way the wind blows? What makes you cabeable of seeing the disaster this country is living with but incapeable of seeing the gullibility of those that voted for this incompetent president?

    It’s easy to understand immature, naive teenagers and young adults who have experienced little more than the cocoon that is their family and home, latching on to a myth of “hope and change.”
    It is impossible to understand bright, intelligent adults who see things for what they are but refuse to accept Republicans or Conservatives because of their liberal past or need to be a non-conformist and call themselves “independent.”

    We’re talking about the future of this great country…it doesn’t matter who picked on you during recess anymore. Get over it or live in a dictatorship from here on out….because those are our choices now.

    That pendulum swung hard left…it’s now swing back to the right. It won’t be falling in the middle

  8. lurker9876 says:

    Hey, wws, I went to a “Meet and Greet the candidates” party tonight. I met a guy who has been a precinct chair for about 8 years and attended the state conventions for the last ten years (he beat me by two years, LOL!) He said something really interesting…he thinks Perry will win, which will drive Bill White into running for the US Senate in 2010…vying for Kay’s seat.

    And guess what…can YOU imaging Michael Williams running against Bill White?

    Oh, whatta hoot!

    A black conservative running against a white bald-headed liberal.

    Then he made another interesting comment…there’s really no other liberal that could run as well as Bill White.

    Oh, change of topic, talked to a judge (Bradshaw-Hill) tonight also. She was telling me about Mostyn who’s been running those Ike ads. I learned a few weeks ago about how he’s been donating millions of dollars to the Bill White team. Well, he formed a Pac for Houston, helping finance the block walks to get people to register and donate 25 bucks to him. He’s also a treasurer of this new PAC. Something like “Coalition of ….”

  9. AJStrata says:


    Get a grip. I never once considered voting for Obama and was not happy McCain won the primary.

    Stop making things up to satisfy your ego.

  10. Fai Mao says:

    When the Boxing Day Tsunami struck Asia several years ago the lead stories were Phukett and Sri-Lanka. However the Indonesian city of Ache was the first place struck. The reason there was not much in the news about Ache was because the city was no longer there. The wave went 10 miles inland at that point. A city of over 300K was completely washed off the face of the Earth.

    Ache was also were the islamist fundamentalist who had been bombing and agitating for an Islamic state were based. The terrorist were washed out to sea. Maybe the wave coming in November will be the democrats Ache

  11. AJ,

    Triage time has arrived for the DCCC:

    Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen sent a cold-blooded message Friday to under-performing party candidates: Get your act together, or you’re on your own.

    Facing a perilous political environment that has left the House Democratic majority in jeopardy, Van Hollen told reporters in a briefing at the National Press Club that the party faces a series of difficult decisions about which candidates to invest in this fall — and whom to leave behind.

    “At the end of the day, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will look at races we can win,” Van Hollen said.

    The public face is they are going to choose the “Limit the Losses” rather than “Retain a Majority” funding profile.

    I’ll believe it when I see the media buys paid for.

  12. Whippet1 says:

    # AJStrataon 26 Aug 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Get a grip. I never once considered voting for Obama and was not happy McCain won the primary.

    Stop making things up to satisfy your ego.”

    Wow, just wow! My huge ego is so bruised after that childish comment. Me thinks you doth protest too much…

    I know I’m not the only one here that remembers that post and you admitting that consideration. And I didn’t say you were happy McCain won the primary… so don’t put words in my mouth.

    I could go back and search for the post during the campaign for your anti-rightwinger, anti-Malkin, anti-republican screeds but I felt you had moved on from those days after living through the alternative, but alas, some people are slow learners.

    Scrub quickly, AJ…

  13. Ten in Ten…

    Nevada? Another matter. Frankly I am astonished that this race remains a virtual dead heat, and it is prompting signs of panic on the left. The Nevada race may be the single clearest indicator that this may be a bigger GOP tsunami than Conventional Wis…

  14. […] is already showing a 5 point lead for the GOP, which would equate to a helluva lot more than 50 seat pick up. Politico is calling it a Tidal Wave year. As I noted recently, we are just now seeing the  rising tip of the tsunami. […]