|The greening of America
New England is so blue, it's green. Here's the numbers: Maine - 20% (April); New Hampshire - 17% (March), 14% (June); Rhode Island - 16% (Jan); Vermont - 20% (estimated). I seem to recall a certain popular Republican senator from Rhode Island failing to win re-election last year when Bush's approval rating in his state was 26%. Can we repeat this trick in the Northeast?
Elsewhere we see a deepening tide of blue spreading across the west and south this June. Montana - 35%. Georgia - 35%. Florida - 31%. And five new polls out in July so far for states, each with a record low approval rating. So Senators, listen up: unless you're from Utah, you have no business voting to prop up the Bush presidency.
The approval ratings for 25 states came from averages of polls that were conducted from January to April 2007 available at SurveyUSA or mentioned on Pollster.com. For the remaining states, approval ratings were calculated from a regression of Survey USA polling averages from January to April versus those from June to October for 16 states. For an example, see this diary. Where estimates differed substantially from recent data, the estimates were adjusted.
OK, this is fun, but does it really matter?
Absolutely! I showed how Bush's approval ratings affected the 2006 House elections in my last diary. Now, I'll show you how money makes a difference. Here's a figure and a recap from the last diary:
Click to enlarge.
If all those and only those who approved of Bush voted for Republicans, and all approval estimates were correct, all the dots would fall along the solid line, which marks a 1:1 ratio.
Many blue points fall below the solid line. This means many people who approved of Bush voted for their incumbent Democratic representative anyway - the power of incumbency.
Many red points fall above the thin solid line. This means many people who disapproved of Bush voted for their incumbent Republican representative anyway - again, the power of incumbency.
*Those who did not approve of Bush, did not vote for a Republican* when a /Democrat/ was an incumbent. *Those who did approve of Bush, did vote for a Republican* when a /Republican/ was an incumbent.
This means if Bush's approval stays at low levels (and it sure ain't heading up right now!), it is likely that few if any Democrats will lose their House seats in 2008. Every House Republican, however, is vulnerable /based on approval numbers only./ In other words, there is no district where the citizens are too far to the right to elect a Democrat. There are of course many other factors that affect the race: the candidates, local politics, and money, money, money. The rest of this diary I will focus on money.
I found the data on the amount of money the Democrat and the Republican raised in each house race from opensecrets.org. This is not the same as the amount of money spent, of course. But it's what we have to work with. Below, I show the same graph as above, limited to races with Republican incumbents or retirees. The color of the dots indicates how much money the Democrat raised.
Click to enlarge.
The closer the dot is to the solid black line, the nearer the Democratic candidate came to the ideal situation, where all voters who disapproved of Bush voted for the Democrat. We might have expected that the more money the Democrat raised, the closer the dot would be to the solid black line. This is true to some extent: those who raised essentially no money performed, on average, worse than those who raised $10,000, who didn't do as well as those who raised $100,000, who didn't do as well as those who raised half a million dollars or more. But after that the pattern breaks down. We can see this in the scattered rainbow of dots closer to the black line.
A striking lesson is that it takes at least ~$500,000 to win a House seat. (The cheapest win was NH-01, with ~360,000 raised.) Here's the percent of seats won by Democrats who raised a given amount of money:
Click to enlarge. Triangles are percent winning, boxes are difference from ideal performance.
The green bars show how close the dots came to the black line in the plot above. (Zero is ideal behavior, meaning the percent voting for the Republican was the same as the percent approving of Bush.)
We can see that raising a ton of money is no guarantee of victory, nor did these races come closest to ideal behavior. Why did those who raised the most not do the best? First, there are only 11 districts in this category, so the 27% won number might not be that accurate. Then, many of these districts were `top tier' districts where the campaign stretched on forevvvveeeerrr and was bitterly fought - I would imagine this would dampen enthusiasm and bring the focus more to local issues instead of national issues (such as Bush). And, finally, in some cases the Democrat was still outraised by the Republican. Which brings us to the next graph.
The other candidate's money matters too.
Democrats had opponents in their elections, of course, and they didn't just sit back and watch the Democrats raise money. So let's look at the same graph again, this time categorized by the ratio of money raised by Democrats divided by money raised by Republicans.
Click to enlarge.
Now we can see (on average) a much better relationship. The more a Democrat raised relative to the Republican, the closer the Democrat came to the black line. Republicans received a vote only 5 points higher than Bush's approval on average in races where the Democrat outraised them. Here's how much higher the Republican vote was compared to Bush's approval for various ratios of Democratic/Republican fundraising, percent of races won, and the money it took:
Click to enlarge. Triangles are percent winning, green boxes are difference from ideal performance, dark blue boxes are money raised.
In 2006, the most efficient campaign was NH-01, where the Democrat raised about a third of the Republican - only $360,000. A general rule of thumb was you needed half as much as the Republican and at least a half million dollars to win. Spreading large amounts of money around more races seems to work better than concentrating very large amounts of money in just a few races. And the more you spend relative to your opponent, the more you can drive down the Republican vote to Bush's abysmal approval level.
So what can we learn for 2008?
First, Open Left enthusiasm for a deserving but lesser known candidate can make a difference. The total raised through ActBlue is almost $25 million,, and some individual House candidates have received hundreds of thousands of dollars each. That's enough to make a real difference in increasing a candidate's chances of winning.
Second, the Republicans are in deep trouble if the national numbers are any indication. The DCCC is outraising the NRCC by a lot. The data show that on the district level, if Democrats outraise Republicans, they've got a 50/50 shot of picking up that seat. If national numbers are representative of district numbers, we'll have a lot more Democrats in Congress in 2008.
Finally, a caveat (one of several): the political environment may be different for 2008. People may not identify Republicans as the party of Bush so much. More on that in another diary…
Just remember: *There are no more safe Republican districts.*
Cross-posted at DailyKos.