Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who's to blame for Virginia?

Welcome back.

Today my on-line friend @AvgAndy tweeted (or RT'd) a tweet from Sean Davis which is looking to relieve the consciences of so-called Conservatives on the far right for the victory in Virginia for the Governor's seat.  As you may or may not know, the execrable Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli thus:

Sean's argument is fairly nuanced, so credit to him for being a deep thinker.  He's saying that in spite of the gap between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli being less than the number of votes Sarvis received, there are demographic factors which tell us that Sarvis didn't actually split the vote in a way that harms the RNC candidate.

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Before I dive into my counter-claim to Sean's essay, let's make sure we say this:

I am in no way opposed to voting as far to the right as you think you can stand to vote in the primaries for every office in the nation.  Vote Gonzo Libertarian.  Vote Anarchist or Theonomist if you are so inclined in your reasoning to get a candidate which will set this country to rights.  In the Primaries, work on your party to make it look like you do, ideologically and socially.

After the Primary, Don't Waste Your Vote.

I know that's hard to hear for a lot of people because they have a very idealistic view of the actual election -- but at the end of the day, an election is an utterly-pragmatic thing.  It is only about the math of the turn-out, and it is going to cause only one of two things to happen:

1. A Candidate on your side of the political spectrum will be elected.

2. A Candidate from the other side of the political spectrum will be elected.

You may bicker about whether you can accept #1 or whether you think #2 is actually that much worse than #1, but consider this: politics is always a game of incrementalism.  If you cannot accept incremental improvements, you don't understand politics.  But in the end, it is about how many votes someone got, and where they came from.

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So where did Terry McAuliffe get his votes?

Sean's argument is that this is the most relevant exit poll statistic:

He says that because Sarvis only got 3% of the Conservative vote, and McAuliffe won by more than 3% total, Sarvis did not split the vote badly enough to be the cause of McAuliffe's victory.  Sean minimizes the impact here of Moderate voters by pointing out in this graphic that McAuliffe won the majority of moderates by 3:2, and anyone who looks closely at Sarvis' campaign would say that he wasn't a Libertarian at all but in fact a Liberal.  That is: Moderates would have swung to McAuliffe if Sarvis was out.

The problem with this view is not that it makes weird assumptions: it is that it ignores the argument being made by us complainers on the Jaded Right.  Our argument is not that Sarvis should not have run: it is that people choosing him over Cuccinelli caused the RNC candidate to lose.

It's true enough that 3% of conservative voters went with Sarvis, but even if the Moderates split 3:2, that's a 4-point swing to Cuccinelli of Moderates who voted Sardis.  3% of conservative voters in VA is about 1.5% of voters; 4% of Moderates is about another 1.5% of voters.  That's the 3% Cuccinelli needs to close the gap and win.

There's only one place to hang this one, and it's on voters who voters to "make a statement" rather than elect a candidate.


Kate said...

"But to blame a major-party loss on third-party candidates is fundamentally mistaken. First off, it ignores data that the Libertarian pulled more votes from the Democratic candidate than he did from the Republican one—an exit poll of Sarvis voters showed that they would have voted for McAuliffe by a two-to-one margin over Cucinelli. Second, and far more important, it presumes that all potential votes somehow really “belong” to either Democrats or Republicans. That’s simply wrong and it does a real disservice to American politics."

Read more: Stop Scapegoating Third Party Candidates for Election Results You Don’t Like |

Also, I heard on Morning Joe today that exit polls also revealed that some Sarvis voters would've stayed home if they hadn't voted for him.

Frank Turk said...


You didn't read my post, did you? You misunderstand my argument pretty obviously.

Am I arguing that Sarvis should not have run? No: I am arguing that Conservatives voting for him caused Cuccinelli to lose. The conservative and moderate voters voting for Sarvis caused Cuccinelli to lose. Conservatives and moderates who vote libertarian cause the left-wing candidates to win.

Kate said...

Frank, why do you assume I didn’t read or understand your piece – because I disagree?

You say, “Conservatives and moderates who vote libertarian cause the left-wing candidates to win.”

This race is an exception. That’s my point. The exit polls reveal that the percentage of Sarvis voters who would have either voted for McAuliffe or stayed home is too high.

"There's only one place to hang this one, and it's on voters who vote to "make a statement" rather than elect a candidate."

That’s the nature of the beast. Third-party candidates rarely win elections and those who vote for them know it. You say you’re not arguing that Sarvis shouldn’t have run. But in blaming conservative and moderate Sarvis voters for Cuccinelli’s loss because they exercised their right to cast a protest vote rather than elect a candidate that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re essentially saying third-party candidates should run but nobody should vote for them. That’s pie in the sky thinking, not political reality.

Sean Davis has updated his article with more math and he’s nailed it.

See “Vote in Two-Way Governor Race” (p. 4):[1].copy.pdf

buddyglass said...

I think there are some problems with your math.

Sarvis's voters from each political category make up the following percentages of the total electorate:

Liberal: 1.4%
Moderate: 4.4%
Conservative: 1.08%

McCauliffe won by a margin of 2.5%, so Cucinelli needs to experience a net gain of 2.5% from Sarvis's non-existence in order to win.

Let's suppose that Sarvis's voters are representative of the set of non-Sarvis voters from their same political category in terms of how they'd split between Cucinelli and McCauliffe. Those splits are:

Liberal: 4.3% Cucinelli, 95.7% McAuliffe
Moderate: 37.8% Cucinelli, 62.2% McAuliffe
Conservative: 86.5% Cucinelli, 13.5% McAuliffe

Given that assumption, here's the share of the total electorate each candidate would have gained if Sarvis hadn't been in the race:

Liberal: Cucinelli +0.06%, McCauliffe +1.34%
Moderate: Cucinelli +1.66%, McCauliffe +2.74%
Conservative: Cucinelli +0.93%, McCauliffe +0.15%

This suggests that if Sarvis hadn't been an option then Cucinelli would have picked up an additioanl 2.65% of the total vote share. That's enough to beat McCauliffe.

However, without Sarvis on the ballot McCauliffe would have picked up an additional 4.23% of the total vote share. In other words, Sarvis being in the race actually helped Cucinelli.

Frank Turk said...

Buddy --

I am not arguing that Sarvis should not have run. That's what I meant when I said, in the blog post, "Our argument is not that Sarvis should not have run: it is that people choosing him over Cuccinelli caused the RNC candidate to lose."

The problem is not that Savris ran: it is that those inclined to vote to the right voted for him rather than Cucinelli. The problem is splitting the vote to the right, not that a third-party candidate is in the mix.

Factually, if everyone voted absolutely with their registration, the split vote would always favor the DNC candidate in almost every race at the state and local levels. The split in voters nationally is roughly 44% DNC, 30% RNC, 26% other. In this election, what % of the vote did MacAuliffe get -- more than half? No: he got 48% of the vote. That means he actually got his natural 44% and then a 4% bump from non- DNC voters.

In a vote which is decided by a plurality in the US, when all other things are equal, the DNC candidate will always win. He or she will ALWAYS win. They own a natural plurality of voters. Their core voters never vote other than DNC. This means that when someone like Sarvis enters the race, and the election must be won by a plurality of voters, unless conservative voters wise up and stop voting for third-party candidates, the DNC will always win the general election. It's a mathematical fact.

Cucinelli needs 3% more votes than he got, and all of those votes are in the Sarvis tally. If those right-leaning voters who voted Sarvis voted Cucinelli, McAuliffe would be looking for work right now. The point is not that Sarvis should not have run: the point is that anyone who wanted McAuliffe to lose had to vote Cucinelli to make that certain because the election was going to be decided by a plurality of voters.

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