Tomorrow I will look at the first quarter 2009 fundraising totals of these 26 House frosh, but for starters let's plot them all based on their 2008 vote share and the margin by which Barack Obama carried/lost their district last November. (Data again courtesy of POLIDATA dataset compiled on behalf of the National Journal and the Cook Political Report.)
The correlation between vote share and Obama margin is weakly but positively correlated (r = .317), and if we use 54 percent vote share as one cut point and whether Obama or McCain carried the district as the other, the four quadrants sort out as follows:
Group 1. Though circumstances change and all freshmen face some degree of uncertainty, to limit the discussion, let's set aside the six members in districts in the top right quadrant (NV3, IL11, NM1, NC8, VA11, and NY25) as somewhat safer, though never totally safe of course, than the rest.
Group 2. Likewise, in the bottom left are six Democratic frosh the National Republican Campaign Committee undoubtedly has identified as prime targets: ID1's Walt Minnick, MD1's Frank Kratovil, AL2's Bobby Bright, VA5's Tom Perriello, NY29's Eric Massa, and PA3's Kathleen Dahlkemper.
Of greater interest are the off-diagonal quadrants in the top left and bottom right.
Group 3. The quintet who won with 55 percent or more despite Obama losing their district--AZ1's Ann Kirkpatrick, CO4's Besty Markey, FL24's Suzanne Kosmas, NY13's Michael McMahon, and OH16's John Boccieri--have demonstrated that their support exceeds the external force of possible Obama coattails. At 55 percent or higher their own winning margins were thus at least 10 percent, and in some cases a bit higher because of third-party and write-in votes. I suspect the RNCC will have to make judicious, case-by-case decisions here based on several interrelated factors including the freshmen incumbents' voting patterns and fundraising totals, the quality of the Republican challengers recruited, and a variety of intangibles like personal gaffes and the effects of local issues.
Group 4. Finally, there is the cluster of 8 Democrats who won narrowly despite a strong Obama tailwind that may or not be available to them in 2010, and these could be the real wildcards--and, not coincidentally, the places Obama needs to visit in the next two years to flex his downballot electoral muscle. Of these eight--which also include CT4's James Himes, FL8's Alan Grayson, NJ3's John Adler, and VA2's Glenn Nye--those two seats each in Ohio and Michigan could be the bellwethers for the Democrats' 2008 House frosh class: Steve Dreihaus (OH1), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH15), Mark Schauer (MI7) and Gary Peters (MI9).
Why? To cite just one reason, all four are white Democrats who benefit from having at least 9 percent combined black/Hispanic population shares in their districts. Given that non-white voting turnout between 2004 and 2008 increased 19 percent while white turnout increased just 1 percent, if there is any significant drop-off in minority turnout their path to re-election could be tough. But I'll have more to say about the "bellwether-ness" of these four districts in a separate, forthcoming post.
UPDATE: I corrected two small typos (had AZ-1 pasted into two groups by accident, and misspelled Mark Schauer's name--apologies on both counts). But, just for future reference, and since I have never blogged here or anywhere else (DKos, American Prospect, Salon) under a pseudonym and my columns for The Baltimore Sun already include my email address, 538 readers should never hesitate to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org long as comments, corrections and suggestions are polite and not personal. And thanks to those readers for pointing out my typos.
The chart below compares the percentage of pregnancies in each state that ended in abortion in 2005 to a SurveyUSA poll conducted in that same year that asked residents of all 50 states to identify themselves as pro-choice or pro-life. A couple of caveats about the abortion data: although it comes from the CDC (.pdf), it relies on voluntary reporting from each state health agency. Some states, like Florida and Louisiana, do not report their abortion statistics, and in other cases -- Kentucky's figures are suspiciously low when compared to Tennessee's, for instance -- it may be subject to various sorts of imperfections, as the reporting of abortion statistics can have some political implications. Also, there is some ambiguity about the number of abortions in a particular state versus the number by residents of that state; for instance, a lot of women in Idaho travel to Washington to get abortions, which has more liberal abortion laws (there appear to be similar flows from Mississippi into Alabama, South Dakota into North Dakota, and Missouri into Kansas, among others). We report the latter total, with a correction for those women whose state of residence was not identified. Nevertheless, those caveats aside, the relationship is pretty strong:
The modest outlier you see in the top left-hand corner is New York, which was one of four states (the others are Alaska, Hawaii and Washington) in which abortion was completely legal prior to the Roe v Wade decision and has particularly liberal abortion laws. It seems, however, that people do practice what they preach. For each increase of about 10 percent in the number of residents who identify themselves as pro-life, the percentage of pregnancies ending in abortion is reduced by about 5 percent.
The pattern is slightly more profound when we look at teenage (girls aged 15-19) pregnancies, among whom a higher fraction of pregnancies (at least a quarter) end in abortion and where there is larger state-to-state variance: more than half of teenage pregnancies in New York end in abortion, for instance, versus less than 15 percent in some states like West Virginia, Arizona and South Dakota (and purportedly only 5 percent in Kentucky, but as we mentioned before we find that figure dubious). For teenagers, the CDC reports data based only on the number of abortions in a particular state and not by state of residence; we apply a correction for this to attempt to identify the latter figure.
The correlation there is quite strong -- about .77.
It might be objected that those states that have more pro-life residents may have more restrictive abortion laws; I ran a regression analysis to test for the impact of things like parental notification requirements and waiting periods and generally did not find any significant relationships, although it does appear that the four states in which abortion was legal before Roe maintain somewhat higher abortion rates today. I also tested for the impact of a few types of demographic variables and some were statistically significant in some formulations of the model (higher rates of teenage pregnancy, for instance, were correlated with higher abortion rates after controlling for other variables). None of these, however, invalidated the pro-life variable, which was highly statistically significant in all versions of the analysis.
One complication, however, is that of access. According to the Guttmacher Institute, approximately one-third of American women live in a county where there is no abortion provider. There is a very strong (inverse) relationship, additionally, between having access to an abortion provider in one's county, and the pro-life leanings of that state.
Do pro-life states have fewer abortion providers because there is less demand for abortions in those states? Or, alternatively, is there social stigma attached in these states to running an abortion clinic, meaning that less of the demand is met?
Undoubtedly the answer is some of both. The regression analysis hints that access is not a strong causal factor -- from what it can gather, the pro-life tendencies of a state drives both the lower number of abortions among its residence and the relative absence of abortion clinics, rather than access directly impacting the abortion figures. On the other hand, because all of these variables are so strongly correlated, it is hard for the model to disentangle them.
The Guttmacher institute data, however, suggests that abortion providers in pro-life states carry a larger caseload. Abortion clinics in the 15 most pro-life states performed an average of 949 abortions in 2005; those in pro-choice states performed an average of 576. (In this case, we are reverting back to using data based on the state in which the abortion was actually performed -- not the woman's state of residence). This may imply that there are either too few providers in pro-life states to meet the demand for abortion (or too many in pro-choice states) -- although clearly many women who want an abortion are willing to travel for one.
State Clinics Abort. RatioWhat would be interesting for both pro-lifers and pro-choicers to know, however, is the relationship between access and abortion rates. If it's a three-hour drive to the nearest clinic, how many women will ultimately wind up forsaking an abortion (and how many will have an illegal abortion instead)? I'm not going to try and sum this up with a nice, sugary conclusion. This is a complicated issue and, appropriately enough, it has complicated answers, even when it comes to its statistics.
15 Most Pro-Life States
UT 6 3,630 605
LA 9 11,400 1,267
AR 3 4,710 1,570
ID 7 1,810 259
AL 13 11,340 872
MS 2 3,090 1,545
WV 4 2,360 590
KY 3 3,870 1,290
TN 13 18,140 1,395
IN 15 11,150 743
SD 2 790 395
MO 7 8,400 1,200
OK 6 6,950 1,158
NE 6 3,220 537
ND 1 1,230 1,230
TOTAL 97 92,090 949
State Clinics Abort. Ratio
15 Most Pro-Choice States
VT 12 1,490 124
CT 52 16,780 323
NY 261 155,960 598
MA 45 27,270 606
CA 424 208,430 492
NH 13 3,170 244
MD 41 37,590 917
NJ 85 61,150 719
DE 9 5,150 572
WA 49 23,260 475
RI 4 5,290 1,323
NV 8 13,530 1,691
OR 32 13,200 413
ME 13 2,770 213
IL 38 50,970 1,341
TOTAL 1086 626,010 576
The nation still moving away from Republicans demographically, too. It can't be emphasized enough that Michael Dukakis would have won the 2008 election. His exit polls of 40% among whites, 89% among African-Americans, and 70% among Latinos is enough to reach 50%+1 now, even in the event that African-American turnout was only 12% of the vote instead of 13%.
From our analysis of the Current Population Survey post-election supplement, here are our estimates for voter turnout in 2008: 76.4% white, 11.9% black, 7.4% hispanic, 4.3% other, with the categories defined as mutually exclusive (for example, if you're white and hispanic, you count as "hispanic"). The exit polls say 74% white, 13% black, 9% hispanic, and 5% other (not adding to 100% because of rounding error), but I think CPS is more trustworthy.
Now we can take the Dukakis numbers and plug them into the 2008 turnout numbers, as long as we make some estimate for the votes of "other." I'll assume 55%, halfway between his performance among whites and among hispanics. (By comparison, we estimate from the Pew pre-election polls that Obama got 45% of the two-party vote among whites, 96% among blacks, 68% among hispanics, and 59% among others.)
Plugging in Dukakis's percentages by ethnic group and using the turnout numbers of 2008, we get a national adjusted Dukakis vote of .40*76.4% + .89*11.9% + .70*7.4% + .55*4.3% = 48.7%, which is better than the 46.1% he actually received but not quite enough to win.
This doesn't really shoot down Bowers's main argument--demographic shifts are important. I think he was overstating his case just slightly.
And, yes, I know that if Dukakis had really been running in 2008, things would've been different. I'm just following Bowers in using the Dukakis vote as a handy way to summarize the trends, keeping voting by ethnic group constant. Voting by ethnic group is not constant (as we can see by comparing Obama's breakdowns to his predecessors), but doing this sort of calculation is a good way to visualize the demographic changes that are occurring.
This, however, is not exactly anything new. 88 percent of George W. Bush's voters in 2004, and 91 percent of them in 2000, were white. And nearly 98 percent of Ronald Reagan's voters in 1980 were white as were 96 percent of Gerald Ford's in 1976. The GOP is, in fact, slightly less white than it once was, as they do relatively better among Hispanics and Asians than among blacks (if still not particularly well), and Hispanics and Asians are starting to make up a larger fraction of the nonwhite (and overall) voting pool.
The Democrats, however, are becoming less white at a much faster rate than the Republicans. Whereas 85 percent of their votes were from white voters in 1976, the number was just 60 percent last November. This is, of course, a helpful characteristic, since the nonwhite share of the electorate, just 11 percent in 1976 and 1980, represented more than a quarter of the turnout in November.
Consider this remarkable statistic. In 1980, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Democrats (or at least white Carter voters) -- likewise, in 2008, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Obama voters. But whereas, in 1980, just 9 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Carter voters, 21 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Obama voters last year. Thus, Carter went down to a landslide defeat, whereas Obama defeated John McCain by a healthy margin.
In certain ways, I wonder if the GOP isn't paying a price for a strategy adopted years ago -- namely, the Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy undoubtedly won the GOP many elections over the years, but it was adopted at a time when probably less than 10 percent of the electorate was nonwhite (if minorities were allowed to vote at all), whereas now about a quarter of the electorate is. The steady drumbeat of demographic change, coupled with an inability or unwillingness to adapt to it, has steadily made the Republicans' job harder and harder.
Likelihood of party switch has increased since last month's rankings.
Likelihood of party switch has decreased since last month.
1. Missouri (R-Open)
I'd promised a couple of weeks ago that we'd have a new #1, and it's Missouri, which displaces the spot that New Hampshire had held for the previous two months. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, has maintained a pretty consistent polling lead. She also has had an easier time with fundraising than Republicans like Roy Blunt and has a cute picture of a pony on her website. What's not to like? Missouri, as always, will be competitive, but Democrats may simply have the more appealing candidate here.
2. New Hampshire (R-Open)
In New Hampshire, we now have a poll from the University of New Hampshire that puts Paul Hodes slightly behind prospective Republican opponent (and former senator) John E. Sununu. If you want to nitpick, UNH polls have a reputation for being a bit erratic, and this was a poll of all adults rather than registered voters (though generally speaking polling adults rather than registered voters tends to help Democrats). Nevertheless, when coupled with somewhat tepid 1Q fundraising numbers for Hodes, this argues for treating this race as more of a toss-up and less of a Lean Democrat. On the other hand, there are not yet any declared Republican candidates, and there is a chance that the Republicans won't nominate a candidate even as strong as Sununu or former U.S. Rep Charlie Bass, whom Hodes defeated in the Democratic wave election of 2006.
3. Kentucky (R-Bunning)
Rumors of Jim Bunning's retirement, it seems, were greatly exaggerated, as he now has his re-election website up and running. Like Carnahan's, it features pictures of horses, as well as the slogan "Keep Bunning":
Don't send poor old grandpa to the retirement home! Keep 'im around! He's good folk, and he just so happens to be on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee! If you keep 'im, he'll bring us some nice earmarks for Christmas, just like the ones that grandma used to make!
4. Connecticut (D-Dodd)
Somewhat better polling numbers for Dodd, although Quinnipiac still has him behind Republican challenger Rob Simmons. This is one case, however, where the filter of a primary challenge might be useful to Democrats. If the anybody-but-Dodd sentiment is still strong come next year, there's a decent chance he'll lose to Merrick Alpert, who would probably wind up being the favorite in the general election by virtue of the Democrats' partisan ID advantage in the state. If Dodd is strong enough to fend off Alpert, on the other hand, that suggests that his standing with the public will have improved at least a little bit, and that he's likely to make further gains on Simmons.
5. Ohio (R-Open)
The latest set of Quinnipiac polling has Democrats Jennifer Brunner and Lee Fisher each maintaining leads on Rob Portman, but with Portman having weaker name recognition than his rivals (and plenty enough money to make sure that changes), I'm not yet ready to read too much into those numbers.
6. Delaware (D-Open)
No official word yet from Mike Castle, Delaware's at-large Representative, whose entry would radically alter the dynamics of this race, but a Republican source tells David Weigel that Castle is leaning toward running.
7. Nevada (D-Reid)
Some conflicting evidence here, but on balance it points toward improved prospects for the Republicans. There's more polling to suggest that Reid is deeply unpopular at home, and while it's not clear that Republicans will identify a top-tier candidate, a second-tier candidate like State Senator Mark Amodei may have a decent chance if the Anybody-but-Harry sentiment is sufficiently strong.
8. Colorado (D-Bennet)
The nominal incumbent, Democrat Michael Bennet, is an appointed Senator with fairly low name recognition who has never held elected office; this race is therefore in some ways better thought of as an open seat. Still, the Republican candidates to have thrown their hat in the ring so far are fairly obscure, and this race is at risk of being demoted if we don't start to see some proof within the next month or two that Republicans will field a decent opponent.
9. North Carolina (R-Burr)
Republicans have caught a major break here as Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper now says he won't challenge incumbent Richard Burr. Still, polling has several other Democrats holding Burr below 50 percent with high numbers of undecided voters. The Democrats are somewhat lacking in second-tier races after Missouri, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio, and whomever emerges as their nominee in North Carolina stands to get a decent amount of support from the party.
10. Texas (R-Open?)
The Dallas Morning News speculates that Arlen Specter's departure from the Republican conference may hasten Hutchison's, as she no longer needs to worry about giving the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority and, according to both partisan and nonpartisan polling, may be losing her favored position against incumbent governor Rick Perry, who she is expected to challenge.
11. Illinois (D-Burris)
Why are Republican blogs spending so much time on unfounded conspiracy theories and so little on Roland Burris, when evidence is mounting that Burris crossed many significant ethical boundaries en route to being hand-picked by the Blagojevich Bros. to the U.S. Senate? Nevertheless, this race gets a down arrow: Mark Kirk, the strongest potential Republican challenger, has been very very quiet, Peter Roskam probably won't run, and meanwhile Lisa Madigan, rather than trying to knock off relatively popular governor Pat Quinn, may run for Senate instead. If Madigan enters, expect Kirk to keep his seat in the Congress and for this race to fall off the radar screen.
12. Pennsylvania (D-Specter)
Tom Ridge isn't running; does Pat Toomey actually have a chance at defeating Specter or likely Democratic primary challenger Joe Sestak? Quinnipiac has Toomey within 9 points of Specter and 2 of Sestak, although the latter is impacted by very low statewide name recognition. Still, both Sestak and Specter qualify as moderate Democrats and it is hard to imagine that Toomey, who compiled an extremely conservative voting record in the Congress, would be able to hold the political center against them once things have settled down a bit.
13. Louisiana (R-Vitter)
Charlie Melancon, the only remaining Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, is now said to be re-considering a challenge to Vitter; a March poll put Melancon seven points behind him. While I still think there's more smoke than fire here -- Vitter isn't as unpopular in Louisiana as you'd think -- he is sure to make a few entertaining gaffes on route to trying to win re-election and Melancon would have a decent chance with a well-executed campaign.
14. Florida (R-Open)
Marco Rubio, who has shown no inclination to exit stage right for Charlie Crist, has started to rack up some endorsements like those of Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush Jr. Even if Rubio were to upset Crist in the Republican primary, however, he'd still stand a decent-enough chance in the general election, as the field of Democratic candidates started out fairly weak and is getting weaker. Democrats might do better to concentrate their resources on the gubernatorial race instead, where popular state CFO Alex Sink is running and could help deliver Florida to them in 2012.
15. New York (Jr.) (D-Gillibrand)
Depending on which numbers you look at, Kirsten Gillibrand's favorables either are or aren't improving. What we can say for sure is that the White House isn't playing games, having begun muscling potential primary challengers out of the race, evidently reluctant to betray any sign of weakness that might encourage former Governor George Pataki, who polls competitively against Gillibrand, to enter the contest.
16. Arkansas (D-Lincoln)
Potential GOP opponents are inventing all sorts of ways to avoid challenging Lincoln, although John Cornyn is still talking up the opportunity.
17. Iowa (R-Grassley)
I somewhat overzealously bumped this race last month on retirement speculation, not realizing that Grassley had brokered a deal with Jeff Sessions to ensure him a premium committee seat in the 112th Congress -- which, of course, Grassley can't be a member of unless he runs for re-election. Grassley is 75 years old and so retirement cannot be completely ruled out, but it's looking less and less likely.
18. California (D-Boxer)
I'm giving this race a very slight bump upward on the theory that, given the depth of its budget crisis, California is going to hell in a handbasket, and chaos usually helps the underdog.
19. Georgia (R-Isakson)
20. Oklahoma (R-Coburn)
Coburn is dropping hints that he'll in fact run for re-election. Although some of the stronger Democratic prospects are within Macaca range against Coburn, odds are that Brad Henry or Dan Boren won't run unless Coburn vacates the seat. Coburn's announcement is expected today; if he pulls a fast one on us, we'll revise accordingly.
21. Wisconsin (D-Feingold)
22. Arizona (R-McCain)
23. Hawaii (D-Inoyue)
24. Kansas (R-Open)
Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson, who took over when Kathleen Sebelius became HHS secretary, says he won't run for the seat, further diminishing the Democrats' already-slim chances.
25. Alaska (R-Murkowski)
26. North Dakota (D-Dorgan)
27. Maryland (D-Mikulski)
28. South Carolina (R-DeMint)
29. Washington (D-Murray)
30. South Dakota (R-Thune)
31. Alabama (R-Shelby)
32. Indiana (D-Bayh)
33. Vermont (D-Leahy)
34. Oregon (D-Wyden)
35. Utah (R-Bennett)
Bennett might actually be somewhat vulnerable in the Republican primaries, as Utah has a very weird nomination system involving a state convention that caters heavily to conservative activists. But our rankings measure the likelihood of a seat changing parties -- not merely changing candidates -- and, um, it's Utah.
36. New York (Sr.) (D-Schumer)
37. Idaho (R-Crapo)
On Moon Landings, Michelle Malkin, P-Values, the Clintons, and the Magical Mystery Dealergate Conspiracy Theory
This morning, Marla Singer at the blog Zero Hedge provided a more sophisticated take on the subject. Instead of comparing the list of closed dealerships to the entire universe of car dealers, Singer instead went through the trouble of looking up campaign finance data for the Chrysler dealers who had been allowed to remain open, as well as those who had their businesses closed. She then ran a series of regression analyses based on this data, which produced the following results:
The key thing to look at is this table are the P-values, which are the probabilities of the outcome s occurring due to chance alone. When social scientists look at P-values in order to test the validity of a hypothesis, they are generally looking for a figure of .05 or lower, meaning there is no more than a 1 in 20 chance that an outcome could have occurred due to pure randomness. That is, they want there to be at least a 95 percent chance of the hypothesis being true.
There is a lot of debate in academic circles, which I mostly won't bore you with now, about whether the choice of 95 percent is the "right" number for tests of statistical significance. The choice of a statistical significance threshold may depend on the particular application as well as things like Bayesian priors. It's important to emphasize that no statistical analysis exists in a vacuum. There are times -- such as when I'm building a predictive model rather than trying to evaluate the "truth" behind a particular hypothesis -- when I'll include a variable even if its statistical significance is less than 95 percent. There are other times, such as when a hypothesis lacks a clear explanatory mechanism, and/or conflicts with other evidence, when I'll treat even a 95 percent positive finding quite skeptically, and would want a statistical significance threshold of 99 percent or even higher. But for better or for worse, the 95 percent threshold represents the default; if someone claims that something is "statistically significant", you can assume that they are referring to the 95 percent threshold unless they state otherwise. And if they claim that something is "highly" statistically significant, they are usually referring to a 99 percent likelihood of a positive finding or greater.
As you can see from Singer's data set, while there are some intriguing relationships in the data, none of them are particuarly close to statistically significant using the 95 percent test. The nearest "hit" is that for Hillary Clinton donors, who -- Singer found -- were slightly more likely to have their dealerships remain open. However, the associated p-value of .125 for the Clinton dealers does not imply statistical significance at the 95 percent or even the 90 percent level.
In spite of this, Singer reports that "there [is] a significant and highly positive correlation between dealer survival and Clinton donors". Although she hedges her conclusion a bit later on, this is a fairly irresponsible sentence to have written. Most people, in looking at this same exact set of data, would not only have avoided the implication that it proves the dealergate hypothesis, but would probably have come to something of the opposite conclusion: it argues strongly against the dealergate hypothesis. After all, there is no positive relationship whatsoever in the data on Democratic, Republican, Obama or McCain donations -- which until Singer's analysis was posted approximately 10 hours ago -- had been the focus of the dealergate hypothesis. In fact, in several cases -- such as for the data on Republican donations -- the coefficient has the opposite sign of the one that the purveyors of the dealergate hypothesis were hoping for. Republican donors were incrementally less, rather than more likely likely to have their dealerships shuttered, according to Singer's analysis, although the pattern is nowhere in the ballpark of being "statistically significant" as most of us would define it.
Predictably, this has not prevented people like Michelle Malkin and Doug Ross from claiming that Singer's data confirms their hypothesis. Of course, it does not confirm their original hypothesis, which was that donors to Republican candidates were more likely to have their dealership closed. Instead, a new hypothesis has evolved -- it's all about those dirty, rotten Clintons! -- the sole reed of evidence for which is Singer's overstated conclusion (but not really her underlying data itself).
Whenever you see a Magically Mystery Hypothesis like this one -- one which constantly transforms itself to fit the (lack of) available evidence -- you should be skpetical. Suppose I wanted to prove that some people are skilled at a game of chance like roulette. At the Bellagio in Las Vegas on a busy Friday evening, there are -- I don't know -- probably something like 300 people playing roulette at any given time. If I tracked their performance over the course of the evening, I would find that some of them were doing improbably well -- there would be "evidence" that about 15 of them were in fact "skilled" roulette players at a 95 percent degree of confidence. I'd also find that about 15 of them were "coolers" -- that they were doing worse than one might expect through chance alone.
Would I claim that these results are evidence that roulette is in fact a game of skill? I would certainly hope not. Instead, I'd find that the same people who were "skilled" at roulette one night were, as a group, doing no better than the average player the next night (unless they were cheating).
The way this data is being used is almost the same. Singer ran six sets of regression analysis: one each for Obama, McCain, Clinton, Democratic and Republican donors, and another for those dealers who had made no political contributions at all. She was therefore testing six hypotheses. If these hypothesis were independent from one another (which, to be clear, in this case they aren't), the odds that at least one of the six would return a p-value of .125 or lower are better than 50:50! Not only are false positives possible -- they are practically inevitable, particularly if you test enough hypotheses and tolerate a low enough threshold for statistical significance.
Why, after all, stop at Clinton donors, who until this morning had never been central to the dealergate hypothesis? Why not look at John Edwards donors, or Ron Paul donors, or donations to any of various political action committees, or donations to members of the Senate Banking Committee, or donations to Congressmen who voted for the auto bailout plan? If you looked at enough of these, you would eventually come up with a few positive results -- and then you could work backward to formulate your own conspiracy theory around it. There is a name for this sort of practice: data dredging.
At the end of the day, people are going to believe what they want to believe: some people believe that the moon landing was faked, that 9/11 was a grand conspiracy, and that Barack Obama was born in Indonesia. There is no evidence for any of these claims, but that doesn't stop tens of millions of people from believing them! Dealergate, particularly in its original formulation (that Obama was punishing Republican donors with the Chrysler closings), is in largely the same category.
So begins the about-the-film section of the website for Al Gore’s 2006 Academy Award winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The description continues with these ominous words: “If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.”
But as Mr. Gore explains in the film itself, there is hope. By taking prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can escape disaster.
Many have rebuked the former vice president for failing to heed his own message. For example, his 10,000-square-foot Nashville mansion used 221,000 kWh of electricity in 2006, more than 20 times the American household average.
In response, Mr. Gore’s spokesmen say he has recently installed solar panels and has purchased more than enough “carbon offsets” to make the house’s carbon footprint negative. That is, he has paid one of the dozens of companies around the world that specialize in helping people neutralize the environmental impact of their consumption by replanting forests, say, or by investing in renewable energy sources.
From the beginning, critics have lampooned carbon offsets, likening them to an obese person paying others to lose weight for him. Others complain that offsets allow rich consumers to pollute with impunity while posing as friends of the earth. To dramatize its claim that offsets are a moral travesty, one group has even created a web site that promotes the opportunity to enjoy guilt-free extramarital affairs by paying third parties not to commit infidelities they otherwise would have.
The fact that offsets have been such a ripe target suggests that Mr. Gore may have compromised his advocacy for greenhouse gas reduction by building such a large house. He could have built a smaller one, after all, and used the money he saved to buy even more carbon offsets.
Yet carbon offsets make more sense than critics think.
Among the myriad ways in which problems like obesity are different from global warming, one in particular is economically salient. Whereas the damage caused by obesity is specific to each overweight person, the damage caused by global warming depends only on the total emissions of greenhouse gases. Paying someone else to lose weight does nothing to improve an obese person’s health. In contrast, a reduction in total CO2 emissions, no matter where it comes from, helps reduce global warming.
The question of which appliance to choose is a case in point. Suppose you live in a northern city with normally mild summers and are considering buying a bedroom air conditioner to ease you through the occasional brutal heat wave. Your choices are between a highly efficient model that sells for $500 and a less efficient one that sells for only $300. Because you’re concerned about global warming, you feel obligated to buy the more efficient model. But because you use your air-conditioner so infrequently, buying that model won’t actually help much. You’d do much more to curb global warming if you bought the cheaper model and used the money you saved to buy carbon offsets.
By themselves, they cannot solve the problem of global warming. For that we need sterner measures, such as carbon taxes or cap and trade. But offsets can help. They should be part of the mix.
P.S. I added a couple of clarifications above to address some of the commenters who were questioning our numbers.
P.P.S. This post is not tautological. The context is that people discuss electoral strategies, which states the Republicans need to target, etc. What I'm saying is, sure, targeting key states is important during the campaign. But that's all minor compared to the larger goal of national popularity. For the Republicans (or, for that matter, the Democrats) to improve their chances for 2012 and 2016, right now they have to be thinking about what will swing voters at the national level. There's not a lot of evidence that you can easily push buttons and swing particular voting blocs or states.
I could imagine a world in which candidates could win elections by targeting particular states. That's just not the world we live in. We live in a world of approximate uniform swing. Recall these graphs:
The swing from 2004 to 2008:
The swing from 1980 to 1984:
The swing from 1952 to 1956:
Not exactly a random scatterplot but, again, more variation than we saw from 2004 to 2008. Actually, the variation from 1952 to 1956 and from 1980 to 1984 is more comparable to the variation in two recent elections, say from 2000 to 2008:
So, the data say that swings are more national than they used to be.
Most industrial democracies employ some form of single-payer health care system. These systems not only deliver universal coverage, they also provide better health outcomes at far lower cost than the largely private health insurance system used in the United States. One of the main advantages of single payer is that it avoids the for-profit private insurance industry’s costly maneuvering to limit reimbursements and avoid issuing policies to the people most likely to need coverage. Many health policy experts agree that if the United States were building a health care system from scratch, a single-payer system would be the way to go.
Yet none of the major health reform proposals currently under discussion includes a single-payer program. There’s a simple reason: As the Clinton reform effort discovered in 1993, most voters are reasonably satisfied with the employer-provided health insurance they currently have will and resist giving it up for something new and unfamiliar. To gain any traction politically, any new system must therefore give people the option of retaining their current coverage.
But that doesn’t mean single-payer is doomed.
Ezekiel Emanuel (a physician and White House health policy advisor) and Victor Fuchs (a highly respected Stanford University health economist) have proposed a system under which everyone would receive a government voucher sufficient to purchase any of a variety of competing health care plans. Their employer’s current plan, if they have one, would be included on the list, as would a basic public plan.
If the public plan is really more efficient, as many policy experts claim, its prices would be lower, which would lead more and more people to switch to it over time. Additional volume might then allow it to achieve greater economies of scale, increasing its cost advantage still further. The eventual result, then, might be virtually equivalent to a single-payer system.
As Emanuel and Fuchs emphasize, however, no one should prejudge how the dynamics of this competition will play out. Some private health plans, such as Kaiser Permanente’s, have delivered high average customer satisfaction at relatively low prices. If most people ended up preferring a plan like that to the public plan, well and good. But even then, we’d end up with what amounts to a single-payer system managed by a private company.
The important point is that, no matter which outcome prevailed, we’d end up vastly better off than under our current dysfunctional system. That’s the good news about the Emanuel-Fuchs plan.
The bad news is that, as currently proposed, it is unlikely to be adopted. Ezra Klein recently argued that the biggest obstacle it faces is that most people would be reluctant to abandon their current employer-provided health insurance for insurance paid for by the government. But since the voucher would enable them to retain exactly the same insurance they currently have, it’s not clear why that hurdle would be decisive.
A much bigger problem is that unlike the current system, which is paid for largely by an invisible implicit deduction from salaries, the Fuchs-Emanuel plan would shift those expenses onto the government budget, where they would be very visible indeed. To generate the required revenue, Emanuel and Fuchs proposed a Value Added Tax, which is essentially a national sales tax. But sales taxes are among the most regressive taxes of all, and with the Democrats in firm control in the Senate, it’s hard to see a VAT being enacted any time soon.
So if hope for fundamental health care reform is to be salvaged, we’ll need other sources of revenue to pay for it. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the most promising candidates are taxes on activities that generate negative externalities. And as I’ll explain in a future post, one such tax in particular has the potential to attract political support from both sides of the aisle.
Let's look at the basic starting parameters for the 2012 Republican nominee:
- You start out with 179 EV from the states McCain won, adjusted for projected changes in the electoral vote based on the 2010 Census. We'll go ahead and give you credit for that last Electoral Vote in Nebraska.
- You need to find 91 more EV to win.
- 172 Obama EV are plausibly competitive; Of these votes 92 are in the Midwest, 56 are in the South; just 20 are in the West (with the last 4 in New Hampshire)
State 2008 2012 EV Hisp%* Demographic Trends**As you start to pare down your list of targets, New Mexico and Nevada are probably going to be just about the first states to go anyway. They really didn't wind up being at all that close in 2008, your "momentum" in both states is poor, and they don't contain that many electoral votes. Colorado is slightly better, but not a whole heck of a lot better, and it's been behaving as a very blue state since 2006 or so; both of its senators are Democratic, as its its governor and 5 of its 7 U.S. Reps.
NC -0.3 15 3 Poor
IN -1.0 11 4 Neutral
FL -2.8 28 14 Neutral-Poor
OH -4.6 19 4 Neutral-Good
VA -6.3 13 5 Poor
CO -9.0 9 13 Poor
IA -9.5 6 3 Neutral
NH -9.6 4 2 Neutral-Poor
MN -10.2 10 3 Neutral
PA -10.3 20 4 Neutral
NV -12.5 6 15 Poor
WI -13.9 10 3 Neutral
NM -15.1 5 41 Poor
MI -16.5 16 3 Hard to Tell
* Based on 2008 exit polls;
** Entirely subjective.
If you excise those three Southwestern states, you still have a menu of 159 EV from which to choose, of which you need 91. And the remaining states are noteworthy for their relative absence of Hispanic voters. If you could gain ground in the Midwest or the South by pursing an anti-immigrant, anti-NAFTA, "America First" sort of platform, you really wouldn't be putting all that much at risk by losing further ground among Latinos. Yes, you could make life (much) harder for yourself if you screwed up Florida or put Arizona into play in the process, but it's not a bad strategy, all things considered.
About half the Hispanics in the United States reside in California or Texas, and another 20 percent are in New York, New Jersey or Illinois, none of which look to be competitive in 2012. (Yes, the Republicans could lose Texas, but probably only in a landslide). There just aren't that many Hispanic voters near the electoral tipping point.
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I'll show you what we found, then give some brief discussion.
Here's how Obama did among Hispanics in the states where there is a large Hispanic presence:
[In response to commenters, here are some numbers for McCain's estimated share of the two-party vote among Hispanics: NM 27%, CA 26%, TX 42%, FL 43%, AZ 35%, NV 24%, NY 25%, CO 27%, NJ 23%, IL 23%, CT 24%. Exit polls give slightly different answers. No data source is perfect and we have to acknowledge that there is uncertainty in our estimates.]
And here's a map showing our estimate of the Hispanic vote share by state (based on the CPS post-election supplement): Hispanics represented 31% of the vote in New Mexico, 22% in California, 20% in Texas, 15% in Florida, 13% in Arizona, 12% in Nevada, and less than 10% in all other states:
OK, so Obama dominated among Hispanics. How did he and McCain do among the rest of the voters? The following map shows our estimates from our model based on the Pew data:
This map looks suspiciously close to the map for all voters. And, in fact, it is.
Here's a scatterplot comparing McCain's vote share among non-Hispanics to his total vote share by state (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia):
The removal of the Hispanic vote wouldn't have changed the election outcome in any state (although New Mexico, Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina are within 1% of flipping, and small changes to the model (for example, using exit polls instead of the Pew surveys) might cause some of these to flip). The point is, except for the six or so states with lots of Hispanic voters, the changes are mostly tiny.
Now let's look at it another way. Instead of removing Hispanics from the equation (which helps the Republicans), let's try the counterfactual in which the Republicans give up on the Hispanic vote, which I'll operationalize by transferring half of McCain's Hispanic votes in every state to Obama. (For example, we estimate that McCain got 22.8% of the two-party vote among Hispanics in New Jersey. Under this counterfactual, we'll give him just 11.4%.) Here's what happens:
Again, not much difference. Ummm . . . Missouri moves to 50.3% for Obama. And here's the scatterplot:
The bottom line: Hispanics were not a key component in Obama's win. However, this is not to say that the Republicans should not try to contest the Hispanic vote. As the last scatterplot above shows, further losses of Hispanics would make the Democrats competitive in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona. In some sense this is no big deal, at least at the presidential level: If the Democrats remain at 53% or 54% of the vote, they'll win nationally in any case. If we imagine a national swing of 3% or so toward the Republicans, so they're competitive nationally, then their big risk if they lose Hispanic votes is to no longer be viable in Florida (where we estimate McCain to have won 43% of the two-party vote among Hispanics in 2008). That's the state where Republicans really can't afford to abandon the Hispanic vote.
P.S. Some commenters point out that the Hispanic vote is expected to vote. Following up on the above, I did some crude calculations, assumning that the Hispanic vote share increases by 20% in each state:
Again, the bottom line is that the biggest difference is in Florida, with its high Hispanic vote that is currently nearly evenly split between the two parties. Texas and Arizona show big potential shifts too, but, again, if these states are swinging without other big changes happening elsewhere, the national Republican party is in big trouble anyway.
Since the Republicans, to say the least, do not seem particularly inclined to curry favor with Hispanic voters by playing nice on Sonia Sotomayor, it's worth engaging in the following thought experiment: Can the Republicans win back the White House in 2012 or 2016 while losing further ground among Latinos? And if so, what is their most plausible path to victory?
I think the answer to the first question is 'yes' -- although it depends, of course, on exactly how much more ground they lose, as well as how much ground they could hope to gain among white voters. If they chose to pursue this strategy, the Republicans would probably elect to make immigration a linchpin issue of their campaign, perhaps coupled with the adoption of some paleoconservative, protectionist rhetoric on issues like NAFTA. While this strategy would be at best a temporary fix -- it would become less effective each passing year as the country continues to grow more diverse -- it might have some strategic benefits in the next two elections, particularly if the economy remains poor or there is some sort of double-dip recession.
In 2008, the Latino vote made the difference in the outcome of three states: New Mexico, where about 2 in 5 voters identify as Hispanic, as well as -- somewhat surprisingly -- Indiana and North Carolina -- where Obama lost nonhispanic voters by a tiny margin and was put over the top by Hispanic votes. It probably also made the difference, believe it or not, in the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska -- Omaha actually has a decent-sized Hispanic minority -- although the exit polls aren't detailed enough to let us know for sure.
That the Hispanic vote helped Obama to win electoral votes in such "gringo" territories as Nebraska and Indiana is a reminder that there are Hispanics everywhere now; the presence of a surprisingly large and extremely Democratic-leaning Hispanic vote in New Jersey, for example, is one reason why Republicans are no longer competitive there. Moreover, the growth rate of the Hispanic population tends to be fastest in such nontraditional areas as the South and even the Prairie states. According to the Census Bureau, the state where the age 18+ Hispanic population grew the fastest between 2007 and 2008 was South Carolina (+6.6%), followed by a three-way tie between North Carolina, North Dakota and South Dakota (each +6.5%).
Still, the most immediate and obvious downside to the Republicans would be in the Southwest. They would sacrifice New Mexico and Nevada, where Obama already won by 15- and 12-point margins respectively, perhaps for the foreseeable future. Although Colorado is not quite in the same category, the Republicans are already suffering from the migration of well-educated (and largely white) coastal liberal voters into the state; to deliberately sacrifice its Hispanic vote, which represented 13 percent of its electorate in 2008, would render the state all but unwinnable for them. So let's assume that any manifestation of Operation Gringo cannot rely on votes from Nevada, New Mexico, or Colorado.
Let's now work backward to figure out which states the Republicans can win. The states that John McCain won in 2008 -- counting 4 of Nebraska's 5 electoral votes -- were worth 173 electoral votes last year, but will be worth 178 in 2012, according to a recent estimate from Election Data Services. So starting with that 178-EV baseline, let's begin adding states back into the Republican column in reverse order of difficulty. Note that all electoral vote totals listed in the balance of this article reflect 2012 projections rather than 2008 figures.
Indiana (+11 electoral votes; 189 total). As we mentioned earlier, Indiana's small but heavily Demoratic-leaning Hispanic population actually made the difference in the state last November, giving Obama his 1-point victory. Nevertheless, it's a very white state, and Republicans are unlikely to be taken by surprise in Indiana as they were last time around.
Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District (+1 Electoral Vote; 190 total). This is not necessarily a gimme. As of 2007, 11 percent of Omaha's population was estimated to be Latino, and another 13 percent African-American. Still, if Operation Gringo can't work in Omaha, it probably can't work anywhere.
North Carolina (+15 electoral votes; 205 total). North Carolina is probably going to be a bit more difficult for the Republicans to win back than Indiana. Operation Gringo or no, they are unlikely to gain any ground with the state's substantial black population, and as we described earlier its Hispanic population is growing rapidly and may represent 5 or 6 percent of its electorate by 2012. Still, it's one of their easier targets, particuarly if the Republicans nominate a Southerner.
Ohio (+19 electoral votes; 224 total). Ohio is ground zero for the Operation Gringo strategy. Never an especially terrific state for Obama, Republicans could gain ground there if they try and trump Obama on issues like NAFTA.
Iowa (+6 electoral votes; 230 total) and New Hampshire (+4 electoral votes; 234 total). One nice advantage the Republican nominee will have in 2012 is that he (or she) will have spent many months barnstorming through Iowa and New Hampshire, giving them a head start on endearing themselves to that state's voters. Coupled with the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire are as white as any states in the country, they're two of the more plausible targets.
Virginia (+13 electoral votes; 247 total). Don't take this for granted; 30 percent of Virginia's electorate was nonwhite in 2008 (including 5 percent Hispanic) and among the white population, an increasing number are wealthy liberals whose ideological orientation is more Mason than Dixon. Moreover, it is a well-educated and fairly sophisticated state that might not take kindly to a campaign based on identity politics. But the Republicans will have to find some way to win it by a couple of points.
Florida (+28 electoral votes; 275 total). I know what you're going to say -- doesn't Florida have a substantial Latino population? It does, but much of that population is Cuban, a group with whom Republicans have long done reasonably well. Obama won only 57 percent of Florida's Hispanic votes in 2008, his smallest margin among any of the dozen or so states in which exit polls tracked this number.
If the Republicans did manage to win Florida, along with the other Obama states mentioned above, they would have a winning electoral map that looks like the following:
Note that New Hampshire is actually redundant here -- the Republicans could lose it and still win 271-267. They could also win New Hampshire but lose Iowa, which would give them a 269-269 tie, give or take a vote or two depending on how the electoral reallocation shakes out following the Census.
But we've made a big assumption here -- that Republicans can somehow cleave up the Cuban and non-Cuban Hispanics, and hold on to Florida and its 28 electoral votes. What if they can't? Let's bump them back down to 247 electoral votes and start finding some more states for them.
Pennsylvania (+20 electoral votes; 267 total). We saw how well the Republicans' all-out efforts to win Pennsylvania worked for them in 2008, and indeed they haven't won the state since 1988. Still, they could hope that the protectionist, anti-free trade components of Operation Gringo would play well enough among union workers to tip the balance in their favor, particularly if they've won back the state's governorship in 2010 and control of its political machine. Unfortunately, however -- unless they catch a couple breaks with the Census -- Pennsylvania alone would not be enough to get the Republicans to 270.
Minnesota (+10 electoral votes; 277 total). It's hard to know how to read Minnesota. The Republicans managed to hold Obama to "only" a 10-point victory there, less than his 14-point win in neighboring Wisconsin, which has traditionally been more of a swing state. Then again, they spent an awful lot of resources there -- including holding their convention in St. Paul -- to come even that close. But Minnesota is, of course, a very white state, and they would probably have to find some way to win it -- nobody said the Florida-less version of Operation Gringo was going to be easy.
If they pulled all of this off, it would give the Republicans a winning electoral map that looks as follows:
There is, however, another wrench in the works: Arizona, which we have been taking for granted until now. Arizona was not terribly competitive in 2008, but there is a good reason for that: it was John McCain's home state. Unless they pull a fast one on us and nominate John Kyl or Jeff Flake in 2012, the Republicans will not have that advantage next time around. The "home state advantage" is typically worth about 7 points, although it can vary from candidate to candidate and state to state. Considering how well Obama performed in some of Arizona's neighbors, it would probably have been competitive had McCain been from, say, Wyoming instead. With its large Hispanic population, it would certainly become competitive in 2012 if the Republicans chose to pursue an Operation Gringo strategy.
So let's assume that the Republicans lose Arizona, which projects to have 11 electoral votes by 2012. That knocks them back to 266 electoral votes. Their next best option is probably...
Wisconsin (+10 electoral votes; 276 total). This is a tall order. Obama won the state by 14 points, it would be besieged by volunteers from neighboring Illinois, and the state seems to have shaken off its Tommy Thompson experimental phase and returned to its more progressive roots. Nevertheless, if they could win Wisconsin, the Republicans could win the White House with this very strange-looking electoral map:
There is one last state that the Republicans might have a few concerns about: Texas. Twenty percent of its electorate was Hispanic in 2008; another 13 percent was black; and another 4 percent was Asian or Other. If Obama can win 98 percent of Texas' black vote, as he did in 2008, while improving to 75 percent of its Hispanic and "other" vote, that would get him to 47 percent of its vote based on its 2008 electoral demographics. But the demographics of Texas are changing in ways that are favorable to the Democrats, and so 50 percent-plus might be within his grasp.
If the Republicans were to lose Texas in addition to Arizona -- and let me disclaim, I don't think this is likely in 2012 but it might be relevant in 2016 and certainly 2020 -- then naturally they are in a whole heap of trouble. Texas will be up to 37 electoral votes in 2012 according to EDS projections (and may well hit 38); if we subtract the 37 electoral votes from the Republican column they are back down to 239. They would then need to win...
Michigan (+16 electoral votes; 255 total). We don't know what exactly what Michigan is going to look like four years hence in the wake of the disaster that has befallen the auto industry. What we do know is that Obama won it by 16 points and that, because the Republicans abandoned the state early on, they will be disadvantaged in 2012 by lacking things like up-to-date voter lists. Nevertheless, it's the best of a series of bad alternatives.
Maine (+4 electoral votes; 259 total). You got a better idea? Maine is certainly very white and, while not really a swing state in recent Presidential elections, has some history of behaving idiosyncratically: for instance, electing two Republican women to the Senate in spite of having went for Obama by 17 points. The Republicans could presumably also consider something like a Huckabee-Snowe ticket to improve their chances in Maine and New Hampshire.
But here is where things get really difficult. The next-closest available state based on 2008 results -- excluding those like Colorado that we eliminated earlier -- is New Jersey, which Obama won by 15.5 points. But New Jersey itself has a somewhat large Hispanic population -- about 15 percent of its adult population is Latino, and while its Hispanic turnout somewhat lagged in 2008, it would surely be motivated to register and vote by Operation Gringo. After New Jersey, the next-closest state in 2008 was Oregon, which was highly competitive as recently as 2004, but unfortunately it does not give the Republicans a sufficient number of electoral votes. That would seem to leave only...
Washington (+11 electoral votes; 270 total). Good luck. Washington hasn't voted Republican since 1984. Its electorate is not as white as you'd think -- 7 percent Hispanic in 2008 and another 7 percent Asian/other. Moreover, it would get the Republicans only to 270 electoral votes, exactly the number they'd need for victory, so if there are any fluctuations at all from the projected electoral vote totals (or they lost one of Maine's two congressional districts), it might only produce a tie or even a narrow loss. But beggars can't be choosers; we would at least have this very interesting map to look at:
This is the sort of electoral future the GOP might have to contemplate if they start losing the Hispanic vote by margins of 3:1, 4:1 or more. Giving up on New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado is a feasible, and perhaps even wise, strategy. But if they don't thread the needle just perfectly, and they make it difficult for themselves to win back Florida, while putting Arizona and perhaps even Texas increasingly into play, their task will become nearly impossible.
Gallup asked its respondents to rate each nominee as excellent, good, fair or poor. I'm going to create a quick Likert-type score for each one, assigning 10 points for each response of 'excellent, 7 points for 'good', 3 points for 'fair' and 0 points for 'poor'; cases in which the respondent had no opinion on the nominee are discarded.
By this very rudimentary analysis, Sotomayor rates as a slightly more popular selection than Samuel Alito and Harriet Miers, and slightly less popular than John Roberts.
Still, the differences are small across -- just barely on the fringes of statistical significance -- the board. In certain ways, it's disappointing to see that the public wasn't better able to distinguish Roberts, who objectively speaking was a strong nominee, from Miers, who, um, wasn't. It seems like 80 percent of the public is making a snap judgment on the basis of partisanship (which should, of course, be helping Sotomayor because of the Democratic plurality right now) whereas only a small fraction are actually looking at the nominee's credentials.
Of course, public opinion can change as they learn more about a nominee -- as it did in an unfavorable way for Miers. So perhaps that small vanguard of people who are not judging the nominee on a partisan basis are leading indicators of sorts. Of the 18 Republican Senators who voted on Sotomayor in 1998, 7 or 39 percent voted to confirm her. Translated over the entire, 40-member Republican caucus, that would translate to 15-16 yea votes, which when coupled with what will presumably be 59 Democratic yeas, would produce a 74- or 75-vote margin for her overall. That would put her ahead of Samuel Alito's 58-vote confirmation (indeed, she could beat Alito without any Republican votes) but just behind Roberts' 78.
Economic theory alone does not prescribe what the right level of saving should be: Optimal saving is a function of the subjective rate of time preference, and economists have no basis to say that some intertemporal preferences are better than others. In my savers-spenders model, both savers and spenders may be acting optimally given their own preferences. I am sure, however, that none of these arguments would have convinced my grandmother.
I don't quite follow the "intertemporal preferences" thing. Yes, I understand the meaning of the phrase, I just don't see how it really applies here. If Sotomayor has enough money now, and she'll be getting enough money in the future, then what does intertemporal preference have to do with anything? Is the argument that, if she has a long time horizon, she'll save more now so she can "buy a jet ski made out of diamonds" (in the words of commenter Drew Miller) in a few years? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I don't see intertemporal preference as the appropriate analytical concept here.
But Mankiw's last sentence makes me think he's agreeing with my P.S. here. I think he's saying that his grandmother had such a depression mentality that, even though Sotomayor has a well-paying job for life and money in the bank, it wouldn't be enough. Thus, Mankiw was ultimately making more of a claim about his grandmother's attitudes (and, more generally, those of people of her generation) than about Sotomayor's financial choices.
OK, enough about this now. And I promise not to analyze the arguments of Alan Dershowitz, John Yoo, and the rest. Back to data analysis.
There is just one problem with this theory. Nobody has bothered to look up data for the control group: the list of dealerships which aren't being closed. It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats -- not just those who are having their doors closed.
Here, for instance, is what Huffington Post's Fundrace site turns up for those who list their occupation as "auto dealer":
Republican donations outstrip Democratic ones by about 8.6:1. Next, let's try "car dealer":
For some reason, those persons who describe themselves as "car dealers" are just slightly more likely to donate to Democrats than those who call themselves "auto dealers". Nevertheless, the list of contributions tilts Republican by better than a 3:1 margin.
Next up, "automobile dealer":
Roughly a 10:1 advantage for Republicans. Finally, we'll look at the slightly more obscure formation of "automotive dealer":
Big Republican edge here too.
Combining the data:
Overall, 88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates. By comparison, the list of dealers on Doug Ross's list (which I haven't vetted, but I assume is fine) gave 92 percent of their money to Republicans -- not really a significant difference.
There's no conspiracy here, folks -- just some bad math.
It shouldn't be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote -- and donate -- Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don't own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can't think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party. Unfortunately, while we are still a nation of drivers, we are not a nation of dealers.