Saturday, March 5, 2016
Beginning to unpack last Tuesday's screwy results....
"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."
Obviously, Tuesday night was a good night for Team Straus and other establishment Republicans down ballot. On the other hand, Ted Cruz turned in a surprisingly strong performance at the presidential level, and obviously Cruz supporters weren't voting for Joe Straus lieutenants. So, what gives?!?
We have a hypothesis, though we can't test it without substantially more detailed data: based on a preliminary examination of county level results cross referenced against individual races, it looks like Donald Trump's presence at the Presidential level was good for down-ballot incumbents.
It seems like Cruz supporters voted for conservatives. Rubio and Kasich supporters voted for establishment candidates. Trump supporters, meanwhile, voted with the incumbent regardless of which side of the conservative/establishment fence that particular incumbent came down upon.
For example: In Joe Straus' and Pete Sessions' races, the challenger candidates' vote totals seemed to mirror the countywide result for Ted Cruz in Bexar and Dallas counties. On the other hand, Jonathan Stickland, Matt Rinaldi, and Tony Tinderholt clearly outperformed Cruz. This is, admittedly, an imprecise measure, but a correlation does seem to hold across across a fairly wide geographical area.
One thing we know for a fact: with turnout off the charts, and massive numbers of new people voting, name recognition was at a premium. For a number of reasons, incumbents have vastly higher name recognition most of the time. So there you have it.
Bottom Line: For whatever reason, Tuesday was a good night to be running as an incumbent in a down-ballot race; it certainly appears that Donald Trump bringing record numbers of low-information voters into the process was a big part of that reason.