Here's my pre-game guide for tomorrow's election.
Let's begin about the non-issues. Though we'll be hearing a lot about long lines across the country, the 29th, which has lost population over the years, will have plenty of voting machines, and the election will probably run smoothly. The weather will be beautiful, and we'll have a big turnout because of interest in this race as well as the Presidential election.
In 2006, I posted a model that showed what Massa had to do to win. I didn't do that this year, but the basic formula for a Massa victory remains the same:
Monroe usually reports first. If Massa isn't destroying Kuhl in Monroe, he probably won't win. Also, big Monroe turnout numbers are a good sign, though those may be muddied by an increase in inner-city turnout because of Obama excitement.
In 2006 we knew who won a little after 10:30 PM. That's 26 crazy hours from now.
According to Rochesterturning, rumors are flying that David Nachbar will drop out of the primary race in the 29th. One of the reasons I find this credible is the private equity firm Warburg Pincus announced yesterday that their acquisition of Bausch and Lomb will proceed. Since it's common practice in acquisitions to "lock up" key players, I assume that Nachbar will commit to at least a year of employment at B&L. The Warburg acquisition must still be approved by shareholders, so it's reasonable to assume that Nachbar will be locked up well into Fall, 2008, which gives him little room for primary campaigning.
Update: It's official.
Reader John sent me a painstakingly detailed spreadsheet of data from the 2006 election. In it, John studied registration and turnout in the 29th, town-by-town and county-by-county. One of the factors John studied was "pull", or the ability of a candidate to garner votes beyond their base.
In New York State, voters may leave their voter registration card blank. In the 29th, 20% of the registrants are "blanks", a little over 30% are Democrats, and a smidgen under 50% are Republicans. Since Eric Massa received 49% of the vote in 2006, it stands to reason that a fair number of blanks and/or Republicans pulled the lever for Massa. It's also reasonable to assume that most of the "pulls" for Massa came from blanks or independents..
To better understand the data in John's sheet, I've created a couple of graphs. The first details the turnout by county and party. As you can see, Republican and Democratic turnout is neck-and-neck in the 29th, but blanks tend to turn out in far smaller percentage than those who choose a party registration. (Note that John has combined Working Families, Green and Liberal in to the Democratic numbers, and Independence, Conservative and Right-to-Life into the Republican numbers.)
The second graph shows pulls, by county. Massa generally out-pulled Kuhl by a wide margin. In the big northern counties, Monroe and Ontario, Massa displays huge pull. Kuhl out pulls Massa only in far southern Cattaraugus County.
Since 2008 is a Presidential election year, turnout in the 29th will probably be higher. In 2004, it was approximately 30% higher than 2006. It's probably safe to assume that the 2008 will see a similar increase. Using John's data as a basis for speculation, I can envision a couple of possibilities for the 60,000 additional voters who will come to the polls.
If the additional voters arrive in the same proportion of Democrats, Republicans and blanks as 2006, then Kuhl's probably facing another squeaker. But what if blanks tend to turn out in greater numbers during presidential years? This makes some sense: if you're not committed enough to declare a party, you may only be committed enough to go to the polls to vote for President. If this is true, and blanks turn out in higher proportions in 2008, then Kuhl is in trouble, because a reasonable inference from these numbers is that he has little pull outside his party.
Update 7/26: Reader John contacted me and noted that I had mis-interpreted one of the pages in his spreadsheet. I've removed the graph and stricken the paragraph that was the result of the misunderstanding. Sorry about that.
Exile of Rochesterturning reports on his conversations with regional Democratic leaders about the Nachbar candidacy. He believes that Louise Slaughter will not officially endorse Nachbar for the 2008 race, and that most of the town and county Democratic committees will publicly support Massa. My sources aren't as numerous as Exile's, but a source that I trust has also reported that Slaughter will not endorse Nachbar this time around.
Exile mentions that he started getting DCCC press releases around the time of Nachbar's announcement, and speculates whether Nachbar is their candidate, since he's using a PR firm with ties to Rahm Emmanuel, the DCCC chair. I don't know about the PR firm, but I've also been receiving those press releases, which are formulaic, low-quality efforts.
Sources tell Rochesterturning that the DCCC is going to remain neutral in the contest in the 29th. I don't agree. My take is that the DCCC is going to maintain the appearance of neutrality while putting in place measures that support Louise Slaughter's handpicked wealthy candidate, David Nachbar.
Earlier this year, Eric Massa began raising money with the claim that the DCCC will consider his race a "top tier" race if he raises $300,000 by the end of June. At the time, I thought that his claim was just part of the usual fundraising rhetoric and didn't give it much thought. In the light of Nachbar's candidacy, however, this claim appears more interesting, since Nachbar can become a "top tier" candidate by simply writing a check. Once Nachbar is "top tier", it will become easier for him to raise money, and harder for Massa.
Obviously, this is pure opinion and speculation, but it can easily be verified by anyone who keeps tabs on DCCC press releases and FEC quarterly reports.
Eric Massa has been dropping hints about his future. Nothing definite has been said, but here are two recent indicators from secondhand sources:
Both of these non-announcements are vague and inconclusive, but it's clear that, as promised, Massa is thinking seriously about a future political role in the 29th.