Archive (2006)

The 29th on the News Hour

The Kuhl/Massa contest was featured on in a lengthy piece tonight's PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer.  Here's what's news (to me at least) in the coverage:

  • Kuhl's rejoinder to Massa's partition strategy on Iraq.  He spoke to an Iraqi interior ministry official there, and distilled his experience as follows:

He said that there's no way that they could do that from a practical standpoint. It just wouldn't work out. And so it's just not even an option to them.

And they are working toward a unified national government with inclusion of all the various sectarian groups. So I don't see any proposals at this point. I mean, that would just lead to people fighting over what's the territory they get, and on, and on, and on. I see that as totally disruptive and not a responsible plan.

  • Kuhl's re-phrasing of the "surrender" argument on the war:

I don't see us sending up the white flag, and walking away, and encouraging, you know, these radical Muslims, jihadists to actually come in and have a safe haven for all of them, take over a country that they then can launch attacks not only on us, but some of our other allies who are there, too.

  • Intimations of a "whisper campaign" about Massa's military service.  The basis of this campaign is the idea that Massa should have achieved a higher rank than Commander after 24 years of service.  A Kuhl supporter was quoted as follows:

DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO, Kuhl Supporter: What position did he have in Navy?

RAY SUAREZ [News Hour Reporter]: He retired as a commander.

DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO: How many years was he in?

RAY SUAREZ: Twenty four, but I'm not sure all of that was active duty.

DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO: Twenty four years in the Navy, what would you expect to get rank to?

RAY SUAREZ: Well, they say he would have made captain, except he took a medical -- he retired...

DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO: I'll leave it at that. I think you see where I'm coming from.

Commander is the Naval equivalent of Lt. Colonel.  Of course, what Ray Suarez was trying to say is that Massa would have probably retired as a Captain (the naval equivalent of full Colonel), except that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and spent the last part of his career fighting cancer and serving as a cancer outreach advocate. 

So, yes, I think we see where you're coming from, Dr. Santomauro.

Perils of the Bring Home the Bacon Strategy

Randy Kuhl is in a little bit of hot water with the UAW, who say that  he took too much credit for bringing federal money to the proposed Sikorsky/Schweizer helicopter plant in Big Flats, near Corning.  Apparently, a Kuhl ad running in the Southern part of the 29th claims that Randy brought more than 100 jobs to the district.

I haven't seen the ad, and it isn't online, Here's the ad.  Like Kuhl's other money ad, it sure leaves the impression that he played a big part in bringing some bacon home to the district.  That's stretching it, because, as a freshman, Kuhl's role in long-term funding projects that have been in the hopper for years is peripheral at best. 

But a little over-reaching isn't the only trouble with Kuhl's money-centric strategy.  Even if you buy the dubious premise that Kuhl was personally responsible for bringing extra money into the district, you have to recognize that it was Kuhl's party loyalty and inside party contacts that put him in a position to earmark bucks for the 29th.   Since it looks like the Republicans might lose their majority in Congress, a vote for Randy Kuhl on the basis of money alone is a risky one.   He might well be a loyal member of the opposition if he's re-elected, and that means fewer (or no) earmarks.   If you're on the fence, I don't see money alone pushing you into the Kuhl camp.

Volvo-Donut Strategy Part 2: By the Numbers

If you buy the notion that the 29th's suburbs might hold the key to this election, what are the numbers needed to drive change?

My model says 5,5,2 and 1.

If 5% of those who voted for Kuhl stay home in 2006, and 5% of those folks vote for Massa instead of Kuhl, and if those trends are magnified by 2 additional percent in Monroe, and 1 percent in Ontario, then Massa squeaks through.  Without the input of the 'burbs, it's 51/49 Kuhl, all other things equal.

Let's look at those numbers and the assumptions underlying this model.

The first assumption is that Republicans are dissatisfied, and that they'll express their dissatisfaction in two ways:  by voting for Kuhl's opponent, and by staying home.   Is 10% Republican dissatisfaction a reasonable number?  I dunno, but remember that it's 10% of Kuhl's vote in 2004, not 10% of Republicans - some of those '04 Kuhl voters might be Independents or Democrats.

The second assumption is that suburbs are more likely to change, and that change will be 4% more in Monroe, and 2% in Ontario.  Overall, the model assumes that 14% of voters in Monroe, and 12% in Ontario, will either stay home or switch alliance.  Fourteen percent is pretty fickle.  The Ontario number is smaller than Monroe because Ontario includes suburbs (e.g., Victor) and rural communities -- it isn't a "pure" suburban community.

Finally, we need to deal with the '04 third-party candidates.  The model  assumes that the Conservative vote will break 2/3 Kuhl and 1/3 Massa.  This might be a bit controversial, but I think some hard-core conservatives who aren't satisfied with the Bush administration might want to cast a protest vote.   The model also assumes that the Independence party votes will split 50/50:  they're independent, after all.

Now this isn't a "real" model -- it's more like "fun with numbers".  A real model would, at a minimum, drill deeper than the county level, address differential turnout by party registration, and have a lot more knobs to adjust the underlying assumptions.  But I hope this at least captures the basics of one of the more interesting dynamics of this race.


Data:  Feel free to download a hardcopy [pdf] of the model, or the model itself in xls (Excel) or ods (Open Document) format.

Batiste's Non-Endorsement

Maj Gen (Ret) John Batiste made the following remarks in an interview in today's City News:

In your talk at the library, you criticized members of Congress who make fact-finding trips to Iraq and come back and report that things are going well. Was that a reference to Congressman Randy Kuhl?

Yeah, that was Randy Kuhl.

Have you spoken to Kuhl? Could he be right?

No, no. I wouldn't give him the time of day or my vote, for that matter. I am a registered Republican, but it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for anyone who I don't think is well informed and has the moral courage to make the right decisions.

The Volvo-Donut Strategy Part 1: Demographics

The 29th is an interesting district because almost half of its population is concentrated in parts of two counties: suburban Monroe and Ontario.  These counties have 44% of the population over 16, yet 65% of the households with income over $75,000 are situated here.  Only 20% of the families below the poverty level in the 29th live in these counties.

In other words, the northern suburbs are big and relatively wealthy.  They're also new to the 29th, since they were part of the 28th (Monroe) and 30th (Ontario) until the 2002 redistricting.   Pollsters sometimes call 'burbs like these "Volvo-donut" areas.  The "donut" refers to the ring of population around an urban area.  The "Volvo" refers to the affluent liberals who populate these areas.

Conventional wisdom on the 29th's donut is that it is more of a SUV-donut than a Volvo-donut.  Nevertheless, 54% of Sam Barend's votes in the 2004 race came from these two counties, and  Monroe was the only county that she carried in 2004.

So, the challenge of the donut for both candidates is clear.  Massa must turn out the 'burbs like it's a presidential election year if he's to win, and he needs to change a few hearts and minds.  Kuhl needs to keep his base intact, including the conservatives who voted for Assini in '04 (8.8% in Monroe and Ontario).

If you're a Kuhl supporter, you can simply point out that Kuhl would have carried even "liberal" Monroe if he had all of Assini's votes and half of the votes of the Independence party candidate.  There's no real race here, because the Conservative vote will make up for any weakness in the Republican votes.

Massa supporters have to look a little deeper to see the basis for a win.  Massa needs to pick up something like 10-20% of the voters in this area to win (I'll post the numbers on this later -- they're interesting).  To do this, he needs to change minds.  The 29th's suburbs are where the changeable minds live:

  • Residents of Monroe and Ontario counties are more likely to come from another state, and more likely to have moved in the last 5 years, than the average resident of the 29th. In other words, they're comfortable making choices that are based on what's best for them, rather than loyalty or habit, and they've shown an ability to make changes in their lives. 
    (Note, too, that Kuhl's pride at being a life-long resident of the 29th is of little interest to constituents who aren't life-long residents themselves.)
  • The suburban voters are better-educated than the average in the 29th.  Better-educated often means better-informed.  Since the last two years haven't gone well for Republicans, the better-informed suburbanite is more likely to vote for change.

A final factor in the Massa supporter's case is Kuhl's difficulty in localizing the race in the 'burbs. Kuhl's latest ad points to all of the money he's "brought home" to the district, which is part of an overall effort to make the race about local, not national, issues.  The money Kuhl's counting was spent in the Southern part of the 29th.  If you grant the (questionable) notion that Members of Congress "bring home" money, the dollars "brought home" to Monroe County suburbs are from Louise Slaughter, not Randy Kuhl.

In my next post on the Volvo-Donut, I'll look at the numbers, and show how a little change in the suburbs can mean a big change in the election.

Note:  You can download [pdf] all of the detailed demographic data used for this post.

Massa's New Poll

Eric Massa's weekly diary reports that internal campaign polls show the race in the 29th as a dead heat.  This is only the second public report of polling data in the 29th - the first was in April.  Both have been by the Massa campaign, and both show the race in a dead heat.  Neither the Kuhl campaign nor a third party has released a poll in this race, so we'll have to make do with this one, while considering the source.

Cheney Coverage

Cheney's here and gone, and I'd classify the coverage I saw as mixed. On their 11 o'clock news, WHAM, the ABC affiliate, led with a clip from the speech and followed with a short description of the protests.  However, their 6 p.m. news also had a piece on the Massa campaign's picnic in Henrietta.   At 10 p.m., the Fox affiliate began with the demonstrators, including a shot of one of the demonstrators being handcuffed, and ended with some Kuhl info, including a re-airing of his latest ad.  Today's Democrat and Chronicle printed a large front-page picture of Cheney along with a story quoting the reaction of audience members.  A shorter story on the protests was printed inside, along with a couple of pictures.

Cheney's entire speech is online at the WHAM site.   

Kuhl's Newest Ad

Kuhl has started using Google ads.  Here are two of them:


The Cheney Buzz

The local media coverage of the Dick Cheney's three-hour tour continues its negative trend. This morning's paper Democrat and Chronicle balances a small headshot of Cheney on the front page with a larger picture of protests in its lengthy section B coverage. And the local CBS affiliate's story on anti-war protests leads with a link to the Cheney visit.

Kuhl vs Houghton on Independence

Amo Houghton, the previous holder of the 29th's seat in Congress, is considered an independent, centrist Republican.  He voted against the war in Iraq and was one of the founders of the centrist Republican Main Street Partership.  Let's compare his voting record with self-proclaimed "Independent" Randy Kuhl.

Using data from the last three sessions of Congress, I ranked Kuhl and Houghton against their peers in the Republican party on a simple independence metric:  the number of times that each voted against the majority of their party. 

In the 108th and 107th Congress, Amo Houghton voted against his party 16% and 20% of the time, respectively.  So far in the 109th, Randy Kuhl has voted against party 9%.

Click to Enlarge

This graph plots the relative independence of the 29th seat in the last three Congressional sessions, and compares it to some other New York Republicans.  The top line is retiring Rep Sherwood Boehlert, NY-24, a moderate Republican.  The bottom line is Rep Tom Reynolds, NY-26, who's considered a party loyalist.  The red line represents the "middle of the road", and the blue line is the 29th.  As you can see, in Kuhl's freshman term, the 29th went from being quite independent to being one of the more reliable party votes.

Again, Kuhl's slogan -- "Accessible, Independent, Effective" -- is suspect when you go by the numbers.


Notes on the data:  For the 109th, this report used the dataset
of votes created by professors Jeff Lewis and Keith Poole, and
limits votes to those taken prior to September, 2006.  The 108th and 107th use Poole's voteview datasets. Any errors here
are mine, not theirs.

Massa Interview

DragonFlyEye has posted an in-depth interview with Eric Massa.  He asks some good questions, especially about Massa's positions on free trade.  This kind of interview is citizen journalism at its best.

Hillary's Robo-Call

I just received a robo-call from Hilary Clinton.  The call included a statement about Democrats "taking back the House".  The call tried to collect three things:  whether I was willing to volunteer, whether I intended to vote, and my email address.  It sounds like the start of Hilary's promised GOTV campaign.