Poll Update (9/28)

The polling from New Jersey coalesced during the past week, while Virginia's numbers still seem to be transitioning:

2009 New Jersey GovernorDemocracy Corps (D)9/23/2009394021
2009 New Jersey GovernorRasmussen Reports9/21/2009414811
2009 New Jersey GovernorStrategic Vision (R)9/20/2009384616
2009 Virginia GovernorInsiderAdvantage9/23/200944488

Corzine (D) still trails by about seven points, but the last time the trend lines were parallel he was down by ten; Corzine has consolidated a net gain of three points in the last month. He will need to increase this rate of change within the next thirty-six days to win, but the race is clearly beginning to shift toward the Democrat in typical New Jersey fashion:

2009 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election

The single new poll from Virginia simply serves to confirm the trend of the previous week. Deeds (D) is down by about two with a month left and anything could happen; but for the moment, McDonnell (R) has the advantage:

2009 Virginia Gubernatorial Election

This week I want to focus on the debate schedule for each gubernatorial election; I'll begin with Virginia.

The Deeds and McDonnell campaigns have been pushing for various changes to the debate schedule, but for the moment there looks to be four debates scheduled. Two have already happened, but more on that later. Here's the current schedule:

Date                  Location           Recap
July 27th          VA Bar Assoc        WA-Times
September 12th*   Radio One Forum
September 17th      Fairfax COC     Times-Dispatch
October 12th         LWV/AARP
October ??             WSLS

[*] Appears to have been canceled.
Source: Bob McDonnell Press Release

Both Virginia campaigns are still debating about the debates, so things may change going forward, but for now this is the schedule. Now onto New Jersey and their more organized debate schedule.

There are two debates sanctioned by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission and potentially two more commissioned by the New Jersey Media markets:

Date             Sponsor        Location
October 1st      NJ ELNC      NJ Network TV
October 16th     NJ ELNC      Will Pat. Univ
October 22nd     WBGO FM          Radio
October ???*     ABC Affil      TV 7-8 PM

[*] Negotiations ongoing, Corzine (D) has
    not committed.
Source: NJ.com

Independent candidate Chris Dagget will also participate in all debates held within New Jersey. There will also be a debate between the Lieutenant Governor candidates on October 8th sponsored by the Leadership New Jersey Consortium.

If you live in either New Jersey or Virginia I would highly encourage you to participate in the electoral process by watching or listening to the debates.

More in a week.

Published on September 28th at 7:54 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Poll Update (9/21)

The tide has definitely shifted in the Commonwealth of Virginia with four new polls, as New Jersey's data remained fairly stagnant over the last week:

2009 New Jersey GovernorNeighborhood Research (R)9/17/2009333730
2009 New Jersey GovernorPublic Policy Polling (D)9/14/2009354421
2009 Virginia GovernorWashington Post9/17/200947512
2009 Virginia GovernorResearch 2000, DailyKos (D)9/16/200943507
2009 Virginia GovernorRasmussen Reports9/16/200946486
2009 Virginia GovernorClarus Research Group9/14/2009374221

I really have nothing to say about New Jersey; Corzine (D) continues to trail having only lead in one partisan poll since February. Corzine has clearly solidified his base around 40, but Christie (R) has lost ground in the last month, likely due to the US Attorney's loan scandal. We really need more data to determine whether Christie's downside will continue.

2009 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election

Virginia's 2009 Gubernatorial election just got interesting. Three non-partisan pollsters showed the race within five points at some point during the last week. The election is basically neck and neck according to our projection:

2009 Virginia Gubernatorial Election

The reason for McDonnell's (R) decline can almost certainly be traced to his 1989 thesis in which he stated that working women were "detrimental" to the family. Deeds' (D) effort to highlight this apparent weak point clearly paid dividends in the polls.

I took a look at the two polls that provided publicly available cross tabs, Rasmussen Reports and the Washington Post in an attempt to glean more information about Deeds' surge. The basic post-thesis hypothesis is that Deeds' performance should have increased in the female voting bloc; unfortunately neither poll provided any gender specific information, at any level.

More in a week.

Published on September 21st at 6:49 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Poll Update (9/14)

Three new polls from New Jersey, none from Virginia:

2009 New Jersey GovernorMonmouth University, Gannett9/10/2009394714
2009 New Jersey GovernorDemocracy Corps (D)9/9/2009384121
2009 New Jersey GovernorRasmussen Reports9/9/2009384616

Our projection didn't really change based upon these newest polls, but you can clearly see the race beginning to tighten:

2009 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election

I don't have too much to say about this batch of polls as a whole, they all seem to acknowledge the current trends, but the Monmouth poll does contain some interesting auxiliary information.

Monmouth University and Gannett conducted a data rich poll and actually divided their results based upon their assessment of a person's likelihood of voting on November 3rd. They released a likely voter sample and a registered voter sample; the results for each segment is below:

             Corzine (D)  Christie (R)  Dagget (I)
Registered     41%          40%           6%
Likely         39%          47%           5%

Corzine actually wins among registered voters, but gets drilled when voting likelihood is factored. The Monmouth report, linked above, addressed this issue:

Murray [of Monmouth] described the findings this way: "We know that voters who are less likely to go to the polls tend to be somewhat more Democratic in their leanings. However, we rarely see more than a few points difference in the ballot test results for all registered voters compared with just likely voters. The fact that such a notable discrepancy has shown up in two consecutive polls indicates that there is a decided lack of enthusiasm for the incumbent among the Garden State electorate. While we acknowledge that most of these 'unlikely' voters will never cast a ballot in this race, if the Corzine team can bump up turnout on Election Day by just a few percentage points, their chances of victory greatly increase."

"At this point, the likely voter result is our best estimate of where the dynamics of this race stand at this time. We provide the registered voter results in the interest of furthering our understanding of the entire New Jersey electorate's concerns and motivations. The bottom line is that turnout always matters. It just may matter more in this election than usual."

Source: Monmounth University/Gannet Sept 10th Poll of NJ [PDF]

The report did not specify the criteria used for determining whether a voter was likely to vote; this appears to have been determined by Braun Research, the telephone data collection agency used in the survey. This information is typically proprietary, but there are some generally accepted methods of determining voting likelihood.

There are two main ways to determine the past voting record of an individual; you can either directly ask them, or you can make inferences based upon publicly available voter registration databases. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires that states maintain an Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) and New Jersey is no exception; the list is public data, but is typically restricted to political uses. As a result, polling firms could request and then use this data to determine the recent voting pattern of an individual. If they voted in the last election, they may be flagged as a likely voter; other criteria is probably used, but this should give you a general idea as to how the separate samples are determined.

The question of turnout still however remains and until the votes are counted, we will never definitively know who will vote and who won't.

More in a week.

Published on September 14th at 10:48 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Sen. Grassley on Healthcare

Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was nice enough to sit down with C-SPAN's Washington Journal show yesterday morning [9/8/09]. Sen. Grassley answered phone calls and questions pertaining to the health care debate. The full length video is presented below, and I would encourage you to watch it in its entirety. I have however excerpted crucial exchanges which I believe to be representative of Sen. Grassley's position as the main antagonist to health care reform.

There are five main points that I would like to highlight from the roughly thirty three minute video. Each point is bolded within the excerpt; I'll respond to these bolded portions following each excerpt. You can also listen to the excerpt by advancing the slider bar in the video above to the corresponding time listed at the beginning of each excerpt. The first excerpt is below:

[TIME: 00:21:24]

HOST: Let's go to Jonathan on the Republican's line, and he's calling from Wilmington, North Carolina. Go ahead Jonathan.

CALLER: Thank you and good morning, and thank God for C-SPAN. Senator Grassley, the first question I would like to ask you is how long you have been a member of Congress?

GRASSLEY (R, IA): This is my fifth term....

CALLER: This is your fifth term; so we're going on 30 years. Is that correct?

GRASSLEY: This is my fifth term....Yes.

CALLER: And six year terms, thats coming up on 30 years. When was the last time you had to decide whether you were going to buy food or health care for your children? Your salary in the Senate is about eight times what the average American makes. And to be honest, you live in a bubble and do not realize what the average American goes through.

GRASSLEY: You asked me when the last time was. It would be from 1961 to 1971 when I was a member of the International Association of Machinists. I was an assembly line worker making furnace registers at Waterloo Register Company, Cedar Falls Iowa; and I spent ten years putting screw holes in furnace registers. During that period of time I had to worry about whether I was going to buy food or other things. And that was two jobs I had at that particular time.

HOST: And did you struggle with health care at that time, with insurance?

GRASSLEY: Well, I suppose I was like 20 year old people and early 30 year old people right now. I was never going to get sick, I never had any need for [health care]. So I think that I was probably, during that period of time, even though my company had a plan for us to join, I think I was seven or eight years of the ten years I spent there before I signed up for the health insurance plan.1 If you're working where they have health insurance and you're 20 to 30 years old and you think you're never going to get sick, maybe that's true, but if you have a chance to have health insurance, you outta take it.2 About four to five million people, of the 50 million people that don't have health insurance, are people that fall into that category of 20 to 30 years old.

Source: CSPAN: Senator Grassley on Congressional Agenda

1. I would argue that Sen. Grassley's health care situation in the 1960s and '70s is financially incomparable. He stated that he earned $15,000 at some juncture between 1961-1971 later in the segment, so I'll use that amount for comparison purposes and assume that it was 1971. Several different metrics reveal that $15,000 in 1971 is worth about 60k in 2003 terms. Health care in 1971 cost $342 per capita and increased to $5,711 in 2003 according to the non profit Kaiser Family Foundation; a respected authority on health care research.

Using the aforementioned data for 1971 and 2003 respectively we can show that the cost of health care as a percentage of Sen. Grassley's income quadrupled between 1971 and 2003. If 2009 data were available, the difference would likely be larger. It is, using 2003 dollars, currently four times more difficult to afford insurance than it was in 1971, using Sen. Grassley's situation.

To illustrate this point graphically, I've plotted national health care expenditures as a function of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over time. You'll notice that the GDP cost of health care has roughly doubled in the past 40 years:

cost of health care as GDP 1960-2007

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services [*.zip 4KB]

No matter what metric is used, health care is more expensive today than in years past. The increase in health care costs have outpaced the increase in wages during the same time period, thus leaving segments of the population with no alternative. Health care has simply become too expensive for some Americans and I think the general public has acknowledged this issue; Grassley appears to be an exception.

2. This is by far Sen. Grassley's most interesting statement of the entire interview/show. He presents a redundant set of logical tests governing the process of acquiring health care. He concludes that if somebody has access to health care, they should get health care. His initial logic can further be reduced to: if you have the capacity to afford health care, you will have health care; if you can't afford health care, you don't have health care.

I know the situation is more complex than a binary choice scenario, but the fact that Sen. Grassley used if to proceed his statement highlights the need for reform. The ability to obtain health care within one's means should be a fundamental right, there should be no if. An individual's desire for health care treatment should not depend upon their, or anybody else's, financial situation. The right to affordable health care supports our declared right to life.

The second excerpt follows and piggy-backs upon the first:

[TIME: 00:30:10]

HOST: Let's go to Dee on the Democrats line calling from New Jersey. Go ahead Dee.

CALLER Good morning.

GRASSLEY: Good morning.

CALLER: I just have a couple of things and a couple of questions. One is, a minute ago you said that it was 1971 the last time you had to worry about providing food for your family and for paying for health care.

GRASSLEY: Yeah, let me explain why that was that way. Because prior to that time I was making about 15,000 dollars and then being elected to Congress and then making 42,000 at the time; that doubled my income.3

CALLER: Well sir, since that time, health insurance premiums have gone up about 400% for one thing, and the manufacturing base has been decimated since that time. There are fewer manufacturing - I mean the world has changed since then. So, that time, while relevant to you, is not relevant to most Americans who are struggling with those choices today.

Secondly, you continue, and I've seen this in your town hall meetings, you continue to castigate Canada and other countries with single payer health care; well Canada is number six in life expectancy in the world. Japan where I lived for seven years, has single payer health care and is number two in the world. Singapore is number three and they have a system where they have private insurance competing with a public option and it has driven down costs in both directions.

GRASSLEY: Well go to England, where people don't live as long as they do in the United States if they have cancer or go to Canada where you gotta wait three months to have an MRI. So if you have a headache, do you want to wait three months to find out if you have a brain tumor. Or why do so many people come across the lines to have MRIs when they can afford to get it right now. Why do you have to wait in line for a long time to have hip and knee replacement compared to what you have in the United States.4

Government run plan has x number of dollars they're going to spend on health care and when those x number of dollars don't go far enough then they erase you. So when you have a political decision and you only have one choice, the government's choice, and what we're trying to do here for the 50 million people that don't have health insurance is to give them choice by putting them into private insurance plans and that's why we don't want a public option.

Because every expert on the subject says says that tens of millions of people, the lowest figure I've seen is 83 million, the highest figure I've seen is 120, are going to be pushed out of their health care plan into a government run plan. And when you do that, you soon have, everybody else's premiums go up, and pretty soon other people opt out and then pretty soon you have what the Congresswoman from Illinois said to a group that she was talking to who wanted a Canadian style single payer. We have to have a public option first because the American people won't go from what they have now to what they have in Canada so we have to have this interim stop over. But you know what their goal is? Their goal is to have the government run everything. And I don't think the government does a very good job of running the postal service for instance. So should they be running health care?5

Source: CSPAN: Senator Grassley on Congressional Agenda

3. Sen. Grassley has already falsely compared his plight to that of others, now he's providing his excuse; money. Sen. Grassley fails to comprehend the intricacies of his own health care situation. He has been a member of Congress since 1974, at which point he qualified for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) of 1959; the plan does not provide government run healthcare it simply provides "the widest selection of [private] health plans in the country." Sen. Grassley hasn't had to worry about health care, in the same since as most American's, for the last 35 years because of this program. It also doesn't hurt to make more than 95% of the general population. Either one of these circumstances explains Sen. Grassley's inability to relate to the imperativeness of health care reform.

4. I think the caller makes a good point, although his factual assertions are slightly off base; for example Japan is third in average life expectancy, not second. The caller's main point was that these other countries with nationalized health care actually produce a higher standard of living, at least in terms of life expectancy, than does the US. Sen. Grassley was very dismissive of this argument and eagerly presented counter examples to the caller's claims. Sen. Grassley instantly focused on areas where these systems are inferior to the USA, rather than focusing on their advantages.

I don't want you to tell me what doesn't work, or won't work, I want you to support what does work or could work. Japan, Singapore and Canada are obviously doing something right, as designated by their average life expectancies, it is your job as a Senator to determine what it is in order to better our country.

5. Grassley apparently doesn't know shit about the post office. If the health care plan passes and is as successful as the post office, 82% of American's will support its implementation.

Published on September 8th at 11:56 PM CT :: 1 Comment

Poll Update (9/8)

Today, the day after labor day, symbolically marks the start of the general election campaigns for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia. The urgency of each campaign will intensify as the voting population more strenuously begins to weigh their options. In the last week, five new polls have entered into the public domain, each of which seems to confirm the previous weeks' trend:

2009 New Jersey GovernorQuinnipiac University8/30/2009374716
2009 New Jersey GovernorFairleigh Dickinson8/30/2009424711
2009 Virginia GovernorSurveyUSA9/3/200942544
2009 Virginia GovernorRasmussen Reports9/1/200942517
2009 Virginia GovernorPublic Policy Polling (D)8/31/200942499

Corzine (D, NJ) seems to have gained a few points in the last week, likely owing to Christie's (R, NJ) US Attorney General debacle. The New York Times presented an article on August 18th, detailing Christie's involvement in an unreported loan to a US Attorney. The Philadelphia Inquirer succinctly stated Christie's involvement:

This week, after a report on NJN public television, Christie acknowledged that he had failed to properly disclose lending a subordinate in the U.S. Attorney's Office $46,000. He admitted not paying taxes on the interest he received, and said he would correct his tax returns and financial-disclosure filings.

Christie's replacement in the office, Ralph Marra, is under investigation, according to the Associated Press, to determine whether he made inappropriate public comments in support of Christie's campaign.

And this month, it was disclosed that Christie had spoken to Karl Rove, a top strategist under President George W. Bush, about a possible run for governor. Democrats immediately accused Christie of violating the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees, including U.S. attorneys, from engaging in political activities.

Source: Philidelphia Inquirer

Chrisitie's involvement in these incidents has now been know for over 20 days, but he still maintains a significant lead in the polls. New Jerseyans tend to shift toward the Democratic candidate as the election approaches, so this race may still tighten; but for the moment Christie appears to have dodged a crucial issue.

2009 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election

On another New Jersey front, Independent candidate Chris Daggett released his first TV ad on Monday highlighting his ability to solve problems. When Daggett is included in the poll, the spread between Corzine and Christie is significantly less.

While the Republican in New Jersey recently faced scrutiny, the storm seems to have passed; Bob McDonnell's (R, VA) is likely just beginning. On August 31, The Washington Post rehashed McDonnell's 1989 thesis as a graduate student at Regent University:

At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as "illogical" a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.

Soucre: The Washington Post

McDonnell's thesis obviously takes a position against working women, which will likely hurt him among, well, working women. The ramifications of McDonnell's thesis have not yet been acknowledged in the form of a public poll. A poll detailing the aftermath of the Post's reporting has simply not been commissioned. Although the SurveyUSA poll was taken during Sept 1-3, I don't think the story had become widely understood during this time period.

2009 Virginia Gubernatorial Election

McDonnell continues to hold a substantial lead, and his Democratic opponent Creigh Deeds will no doubt focus on the thesis. McDonnell has since released a TV ad in response to the thesis issue; the ad basically contains political unicorns and rainbows.

If McDonnell can get past his thesis, much like Chrisite overcame his unreported loan, the election is still easily within his grasp.

Obama will speak to Congress tomorrow at 8 PM ET on the subject of Health Care Reform; I would encourage everybody to watch his speech.

More in a week.

Published on September 8th at 1:27 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Electoral College Projection Map
Senate Projection Map